On 24 January 1974, a Togo Air Force Douglas C-47 Skytrain carrying several notable political figures crashed at an isolated location near the village of Sarakawa in northern Togo. Gnassingbé Eyadéma, the President of Togo, was on board the aircraft, which was flying from Lomé to his native village, Pya. As the C-47 descended for landing, it crashed near Sarakawa. Eyadéma survived, but his French pilot and three other passengers died.
Eyadéma claimed the aircraft had been sabotaged after he had reneged on an agreement with a French company over the use of a phosphate mine. Eyadéma attributed his survival to mystical powers and declared 24 January to be "Economic Liberation Day." Eyadéma even changed his first name from Étienne to Gnassingbé to remember the date of the day he survived the crash.
Following the incident, a monument was established by the Togolese government near the crash site. The monument features a statue of Eyadéma standing tall on top of a plinth, flanked by images of his generals who died in the crash.
Eyadéma was not the sole survivor of the crash, but he deliberately misrepresented the details of the accident to make himself look like a hero with superhuman strength who miraculously survived the disaster when everyone else was killed. Eyadéma claimed that the crash was not an accident and was in fact a conspiracy to kill him, plotted by French imperialists who did not like his plan (announced on 10 January 1974) to nationalize the important phosphate mining company, the Compagnie Togolaise des Mines du Bénin (CTMB or Cotomib). His C-47 was replaced by a new presidential jet, a Gulfstream II, which was itself damaged beyond repair in a fatal accident in the same year. Eyadéma was not on board the jet at the time.