The First Couple has condoled families of the 18 Malawi Defence Force (MDF) trainees and officers who died in a road accident in Mzimba yesterday.
In a statement signed by Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara, President Peter Mutharika and First Lady Gertrude Mutharika also wished the injured speedy recovery.
The First Couple also assured bereaved families that government will do all it can to assist them during the difficult time.
What started as a final field trip ahead of their passing out parade ended in tragedy for the MDF trainees after 18 of the 35 people on board died in the road accident at Mapanjila in Mzimba District.
In an interview yesterday, MDF spokesperson Paul Chiphwanya said 16 died on the spot after the MDF Iveco truck they were travelling in overturned.
He said aboard the vehicle were the recruits, instructors and the driver.
Chiphwanya said he was yet to be updated on the cause of the accident. He said the soldiers were returning from their final assignment in Mzimba to Malawi Armed Forces College (Mafco) in Salima to prepare for their passing out parade.
Mzimba District Hospital spokesperson Ellings Nyirenda put the number of the dead at 18, but said several others were in a critical condition after sustaining serious injuries.
He said seven of the soldiers sustained severe head injuries and were rushed to Mzuzu Central Hospital, the Northern Region main referral centre.
Nyirenda said the accident happened at Mapanjila after the driver lost control of the vehicle as he negotiated a steep bend, leading to the truck overturning three times.
He said: “Sixteen  of those confirmed dead, died on spot while two died at Mzimba District Hospital where several others were also admitted to after sustaining injuries of various degrees.
“The situation is not good. A number of soldiers were injured and I cannot tell how many, but hospital officials are busy helping the victims.”
When cases of such magnitude happen, hospitals get overwhelmed and in most cases they run out of blood. However, Nyirenda said Mzimba District Hospital had enough blood stocks to manage the situation.
He also said the hospital had electricity supply; hence, medical personnel were able to effectively attend to the victims.
Northern Region Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya said police were on the ground to establish the cause of the accident.
He said preliminary findings established that the driver lost control of the vehicle on a steep bend.
In recent months, the number of road accidents on the country’s roads has been on the rise. However, this was the first one in the past five or so months to claim 18 lives at one go.