Wolfsburg midfielder Junior Malanda killed in car crash at 20 years old
WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) — Wolfsburg midfielder and Belgium youth international Junior Malanda was killed in a car crash on his way to meet teammates for a training camp on Saturday.
Malanda was a passenger in a Volkswagen Touareg that was traveling toward Hannover when it went off the motorway "for as yet unknown reasons" near Bielefeld in western Germany, police said.
"The car broke through the right guardrail, hit a tree and flipped over several times in the embankment. The car came to a stop on its roof. One person was thrown out of the vehicle by the accident and died at the scene," police said in a statement. "This was the 20-year-old Belgian Bundesliga player of VFL Wolfsburg, Bernhard Geoffrey Malanda Adje."
The driver and another passenger, both also 20-year-old Belgians, were seriously injured and taken to nearby hospitals. The motorway was blocked for about two hours.
"The car was totally destroyed in the accident. At the time, there was heavy rain and gale-force winds," the police statement said.
Malanda was due to leave for Wolfsburg's training camp in South Africa late Saturday. The club canceled its departure, and was to decide Sunday whether to travel at all, news agency dpa reported.
Malanda joined Wolfsburg from Belgian Pro League side Zulte Waregem in January 2014, going on to score two goals and set up four more in 17 Bundesliga games. He previously played for Lille in France.
"We are incredibly affected. It's a terrible misfortune," Wolfsburg board member Stephan Gruesem said.
Belgium and Wolfsburg midfielder Kevin de Bruyne tweeted a picture of himself with Malanda with the words, "You will always be around!!"
Bundesliga rival Hannover put aside local differences and joined a host of clubs offering condolences.
"It's terrible news," Hannover sporting director Dirk Dufner said. "Our deepest sympathies go to his family, his friends and of course to all who were with him on a daily basis at Wolfsburg."
Malanda is the fourth active Bundesliga player to die in a car accident after Eintracht Braunschweig's Juergen Moll and Lutz Eigendorf in 1968 and 1983, respectively, and Maurice Banach of Cologne in 1991.