| credits: Sodiq Adelakun
A passenger plane from Abuja on Sunday crashed into two houses at Iju, a suburb of Lagos metropolis, killing all 146 passengers and seven crew members on board. The houses are located on Akande Street, in the densely populated area. Although some occupants of the houses also died, the number could not be ascertained as at the time this newspaper went to bed.
The plane, a Boeing, McDonnell Douglas (MD-83), with registration number 5N-RAM and operated by Dana Airlines Limited, crashed barely five minutes to touchdown at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja.
Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Harold Demuren, said there was no survivor.
“It was a Dana (airline) flight out of the capital (Abuja) to Lagos with about 153 people on board. I don’t believe there are any survivors,” Demuren said.
Among the victims of the crash are the Group General Manager, Public Affairs Division of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma; and Ehime Aikhomu, son of the late former military Vice-President Augustus Aikhomu.
A close aide of Ajuonuma, who asked not to be named, confirmed to The PUNCH on Sunday that the NNPC spokesman was aboard the crashed plane.
He said, “I can confirm to you that Dr. Ajuonuma was on that flight. The protocol officer that followed him to the airport confirmed to us that he boarded the flight. It is really sad; it is as if I have lost my dad.”
Ajuonuma, who joined NNPC in 2003,
was one of the longest serving NNPC spokesmen.
One of the female crew members, who died in the crash, identified simply as Vivian, was billed to wed her United Kingdom-based fiancé this month.
An eyewitness told one of our correspondents at the scene that the aircraft exploded as soon as it hit one of the the buildings.
Two eyewitnesses said they heard the passengers crying for help.
One of the eyewitnesses, who did not give his name said, “They were crying, help, help, help but no one could do anything after the plane had crashed.
‘‘We all rushed to the scene after the plane crashed but we did not know what to do as the smoke was too much for us. Somebody in the crashed plane, we don’t know whether it was a passenger or the pilot, tried to escape,” he said.
Another eyewitness said he also heard voices from within a building next to the centre of the crash. He said the voices were saying, ‘‘Help!’’
At the crash site, the plane’s wreckage and the badly burnt body parts of the victims littered the scene.
Hundreds of residents and rescue workers worked round the clock after the crash to retrieve the bodies of victims.
The corpse of a seven-year-old girl and that of a female, who the residents said was known as ‘Mama Joel’, were among the bodies recovered. The body of a victim believed to be the aircraft’s pilot, a middle-aged man, was also found.
While most of the bodies retrieved before sunset were burnt beyond recognition, none of the 24 corpses retrieved last night was burnt.
The Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Ogun State, Mr. Ayobami Omiyale, said, “The head of the plane crashed into a two-storey building while the middle and tail entered the warehouse of a publishing company.
“All the bodies were found in the two-story building. We are yet to get any corpse from the publishing house which has a larger part of the plane in it.
“None of the corpses was touched by the fire. However, the bodies were a mixture of both residents and the aircraft passengers.
“We couldn’t ascertain all their identities immediately and there are more bodies to be recovered but the plane is still on fire.”
Dana airline began commercial flights on November 10, 2008.
The Sunday crash is the second involving Nigerian airplanes last weekend. A cargo plane belonging to Allied Air, on Saturday, overshot the runway in Kotoka International Airport, Ghana, and crashed into a mini bus, killing 10 people.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a three-day national mourning in memory of the victims of the Sunday crash. Jonathan also cancelled all his public engagements scheduled for Monday (today) and directed that the national flag be flown at half mast for the three days of mourning.
A statement by his spokesman, Reuben Abati, said the President assured all air travellers that “every possible effort will be made to ensure that the right lessons are learnt from the tragic loss of valuable lives in today’s plane crash.”
The statement reads, “The President joins all Nigerians in mourning all those who lost their lives in the plane crash which has sadly plunged the nation into further sorrow on a day when Nigerians were already in grief over the loss of many other innocent lives in a church bombing in Bauchi State.
“President Jonathan assures air travellers in the country that every possible effort will be made to ensure that the right lessons are learnt from the tragic loss of valuable lives in today’s (Sunday’s) plane crash and that further measures will be put in place to boost aviation safety in the country.
“He prays that God Almighty will grant the families of the victims of the plane crash the courage and fortitude to bear their irreparable loss.”
Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, said she was saddened by the news and was already on her way to the crash site.
“I am extremely saddened by the news of the crash and I assure the nation that investigations are underway,” she told the News Agency of Nigeria.
Source – Punchng