AFCON organisers yet to investigate bus crash which left journalists injured
The organisers of the Africa Cup of Nations are yet to open an investigation into a bus crash which injured journalists covering the tournament in Ivory Coast.
The accident occurred in the early hours of January 24 when the bus, transporting 38 members of the media from Yamoussoukro to Abidjan following Angola’s group match against Burkina Faso, slammed into a wall.
At least two journalists suffered broken bones in the crash, while several are still recovering from their injuries three weeks later. One suffered a deep wound to his leg which subsequently became infected, leaving him struggling to walk.
Ordinarily, an accident involving an official tournament bus would be expected to prompt an investigation by the competition organisers.
But while the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has indicated to affected journalists that the tournament’s local organising committee (LOC) has responsibility for any logistical-related issues, the LOC – loosely supported by Ivory Coast government of ministers – has argued that CAF are accountable.
Journalists involved in the crash contacted by The Athletic – many of whom were freelance – have said that no official support was offered to help them continue their coverage of the tournament and that there has been no clarity about whether any of them will be able to proceed with compensation claims.
Neither official body has issued a public statement officially recognising what happened, or responded to journalists asking for a formal investigation to be launched.
CAF president Patrice Motsepe appeared to be unaware of the incident when he was asked about it at a press conference last Friday, with his press officer instead trying to answer questions on the subject.
Alex Cizmic, an Italian journalist living in Bosnia who suffered two broken bones in his hand in the crash, told The Athletic: “There should be an investigation to establish the truth.”
Cizmic tried his best to continue working despite his injuries. As a freelancer covering his own transport and accommodation costs, he has not just been dealing with physical and psychological trauma since the crash. Medical costs and recovery time cause financial anxieties and this, he says, has had consequences for mental health.
On the night of the accident, lots of reporters were sleeping on the bus but he was awake, positioned near to the front, watching an interview with Aliou Cisse, the Senegalese coach, on his mobile phone.
“All of a sudden, I heard someone screaming, ‘Be careful, be careful! Driver!’ After a few seconds we crashed into a wall on the right side of the highway,” he told The Athletic.
Cizmic fell out of his seat and was unable to find his phone, watch or glasses. When he stood up, he discovered he was bleeding from his head and his hands. He was able to escape the bus through its broken windows with the help of the gendarmerie. After an hour, he was taken to a hospital in Treichville.
A quick update: I eventually suffered a fracture on the 4th and 5th metacarpals of my right hand. It’s not so serious, but I will have my arm in plaster for around two weeks. This won’t stop me to cover the AFCON. I will find a way to keep working.#AFCON2023 #CAN2023 pic.twitter.com/G32gMMj9ub
— Alex Čizmić (@AlexCizmic) January 25, 2024
Cizmic says he was told by an LOC official on the night of the accident that he would receive compensation for his injuries and any lost time but nobody from the organisation has contacted him about this since despite his attempts to engage.
Meanwhile, he had to approach CAF about further medical assistance. It was only then, after an X-ray, that it was established he had suffered two fractures in his hand.
As the tournament approached its final stages, Cizmic and the 37 other journalists involved were invited to attend a meeting with four Ivory Coast government ministers to discuss the circumstances of the crash. He suspects that the government had identified that the LOC and CAF had not handled the matter adequately.
“I think they were trying to save the image of the country,” he said.
CAF, the LOC and the Ivorian ministry for Sport were invited by The Athletic to comment.
(Top photo: Alex Cizmic)