The western Sahara is a pretty terrible place to crash. The common perception of the Sahara’s giant rolling sand dunes doesn’t hold true in the western portion of the desert - you get a lot of rocks instead of sand, so the chances of a soft landing are slim.
Then there’s the scorching days, the freezing nights, the near total lack of food or water, and the only people for untold miles around are nomads or outcasts, typically armed and unfriendly.
It’s probably worse, even, that going down in the middle of the Pacific. At least there, if you survive the crash into (relatively) soft water and have a raft, you can survive drifting for a while, a week or more maybe in which you could potentially be found. In the desert, you probably have two days to get help at most.
At least they weren’t even farther into the wastes - help could conceiveably reach potential survivors from the major city of Gao.
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