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The following news concerns the Kenya Airways Airbus which crashed on January 30, killing 169 passengers and crew.

(Views expressed in the following material are not necessarily those of the United Bible Societies)

AFRICA: Staff of the United Bible Societies were stunned to learn of the death of two prominent Bible men in the Africa region who died when their plane crashed minutes after taking off from Abidjan airport.

Bible Leaders Killed in Air Disaster

READING, England; February 1, 2000 — It has been confirmed that at least four key Bible movement leaders were among the 169 passengers who died in Sunday’s air disaster when a Kenya Airways flight crashed into the sea off Côte d’Ivoire.

The Rev Gaius M Musa The United Bible Societies (UBS) is mourning the loss of two prominent staff members, the Rev Gaius M Musa, General Secretary of the Bible Society of Nigeria (BSN), and the Rev Dr Stephen Niyang, UBS Media Consultant for Africa. The Rev Dr Stephen Niyang

The two men had boarded the plane in Nairobi, Kenya after attending UBS meetings there. They were to disembark in Lagos, Nigeria where the plane was scheduled to stop en route to Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire.

However, bad weather in Lagos forced the plane to head directly for Abidjan. Mr Musa and Dr Niyang remained on the plane after landing at Abidjan airport, and were among the 179 passengers aboard when Flight 431 took off again for Lagos.

It was shortly after take-off that the passengers started to realise that something was wrong. According to one survivor, the plane did not feel “quite balanced.”

Eyewitnesses on the ground watched in horror as the plane crashed into the sea, breaking into pieces. The wreckage caught fire and slid for about 15 feet before sinking.

Local boat-owners and soldiers from a nearby French army base began a rescue operation to search for survivors. But the darkness of the night and the strong waves made their task difficult.

Only 10 survivors were pulled from the water, but Mr Musa and Dr Niyang were not among them, according to a list of survivors released by Kenya Airways on Monday.

“The entire UBS family is shocked by the tragic loss of Gaius and Stephen and others who died in the Abidjan air crash,” the Rev Fergus Macdonald, UBS General Secretary, said yesterday. “We extend our loving sympathy to their families and pray that they may be remarkably comforted by the grace of our risen Lord and the great hope of eternal life.”

Mr Musa is survived by his wife Sarah and their two daughters, while Dr Niyang leaves behind 13 dependants, including his wife and children.

Other key Bible people who did not appear on the survivors’ list were Canadian missionaries Robert and Ruth Chapman. Mr Chapman had recently been appointed Africa Director of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) – a translation arm of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Meanwhile, teams continue to search for bodies in the water near the wreckage. Daniel Bitrus, UBS Anglophone Africa Regional Secretary, who was close to Mr Musa and Dr Niyang, is due to fly to Abidjan where he will help to identify their bodies.

Kenya Airways will transport the bodies of the dead Nigerians to Lagos. Funeral arrangements for Mr Musa and Dr Niyang will be co-ordinated from Bible House in Lagos. (478 words – AIRCRASH.1.02.2000)

Biographical details of Mr Musa and Dr Niyang will follow.