Matthew Aquilina went missing in the early hours of the 3rd December 1995 whilst returning from a work phase in Libya, via Tunisia. Matthew was one of six people assumed to be on board the Piper Lance aircraft, registration 9H-ABU which is deemed to have disappeared on the way to Malta from Djerba Airport. The aircraft is alleged to have crashed in an area between Tunisia and Malta.
From that day onwards, uncertainty has ensued. Notwithstanding the fact that a Board of Inquiry has been set up in Malta which is attempting to unravel the mystery surrounding the case, most of the information that has surfaced so far has been inconclusive. Nobody really knows for certain what actually happened in the early hours of the 3rd December 1995!
Besides Matthew, there were another five travellers, another two Maltese citizens, an Englishman, an Irish national and a Polish national. Search missions were launched that week but there was no sign of any wreckage; nor was the plane ever spotted on any radar or satellite image. Moreover, there is an inexplicable delay at diplomatic levels.
Matthew phoned home several times on the 2nd December 1995 informing the family that he was going to return that night. That evening prior to the incident a storm had brewed over Djerba and thus the departure was doubtful. Matthew and three of the other passengers promised to call home again if they were to travel that night. These telephone calls were never made.
The Piper Lance allegedly took off from Djerba at 0441hrs and went missing just before crossing the Maltese FIR Boundary, at 0511 hrs. The reports of distress signals that had been received during the following days have never been confirmed to this day.
In October 1996, Tunisian fishermen brought up the wallet and the keys of the pilot together with some debris in their nets. A Piper Lance manufacturing expert was brought over to Malta. Whilst confirming that the debris is that of the Piper Lance 9H-ABU, he could only confirm that two people were onboard. There were no signs of bone residue when the wreckage was examined, no personal belongings of the five passengers were ever found and many questions regarding the actual findings remain unanswered. So far, evidence has been very sketchy and theories remain hypothetical.
Too many questions remain unanswered.
In the meantime, Matthew’s family and friends have done their utmost to face the harsh reality of the situation. Nevertheless, the candle of hope remains alight – no matter how dim the flame may be.
Why the Sliema Scout Group?
The link with the 1st Sliema Scout Group is a very strong one. Matthew joined the Group at a very young age as a Cub scout and from then on, scouting played an extremely important role in his life.
His eagerness and dedication to Scouting and an undying loyalty to the Group were the key elements which made his scouting career an enviable one.
Matthew’s greatest achievement was that of rebuilding the Venture Unit from the state it was at the time, to a section which till today remains one of the most respected. The Venture Unit Room at Sliema Headquarters is the living proof of Matt’s dedication. The walls are covered with photos of the glorious days when he was the Venture Scout Leader. Till this day, many of the manuals, reports and guidelines he worked on are still the most valuable source of training the Recruit Venture Scouts receive.
At the end of summer 1997, the Group unveiled a plaque in Matthew’s honour and the Venture Unit Room was named after him. The ceremony was a touching one and it left many of those present in a sombre mood.
On the other hand, the Venture Unit and the Rover Crew are determined to continue the strong scouting tradition they learned from Matt. He will, for years to come, be the greatest source of inspiration and motivation the Group has ever had.
The Matthew Aquilina Award
In 2012, Matthew’s family and the Group launched the Matthew Aquilina Award. The citation on the award reads: “Dedicated youth member of the 1st Sliema Scout Group who has earned distinction in their scout training and personal development, through excellent participation in activities, whilst taking on increasing responsibilities.”
The Matthew Aquilina award has become the most prestigious award any member of the 1st Sliema Scout Group can receive. The awardee is chosen, following a nomination from each of the Sections, by the Group Scout Leader. Since it’s inception, the following are the awardees of the award:
|Ethan Agius Pizzuto
|– Not Awarded –
|– Not Awarded –