A Bloody Week
Over 150 lives perish as DANA airline flight from Abuja to Lagos crashes into buildings on the outskirts of the city two minutes to landing
Bob Ochigbo Jumbo, 40, a Lt-Colonel, at the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA, Kaduna, had planned to travel with his wife to Akwa Ibom State on Tuesday, June 5, after he would have returned from his trip to Ibadan on June 3. Full of life, Jumbo boarded the ill-fated Dana aircraft en route Lagos from Abuja and unfortunately never came back to his family (his wife and three children)
His residence at the NDA officer’s quarters was filled with sympathisers including Helen Mark, wife of the Senate president, who came to commiserate with the family. Bridget, the deceased’s widow, surrounded by sympathisers, was overwhelmed with tears. She could not talk to Newswatch on the death of her husband but managed to describe him as “The best father and husband” in the whole world.
Also, the Inuwa Wada road, the residence of Shehu Kaikai, in Kaduna, father of the late Farida Kaikai, who was among the victims of the Dana Air crash, was filled with friends and relations who came to sympathise with the family. The late Farida, a graduate of economics from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, hailed from Katsina State and worked with Aso Savings and Loans in Abuja. She was going for training in Lagos via the Crashed Dana plane.
One of the sympathisers, Tukur Mani, who was recently appointed ambassador of Nigeria to Iran, described the plane crash as unfortunate. Shehu Kaikai, the father of the deceased, described his late daughter as a problem solver and a very hard working person who contributed immensely to the growth of her company. He said Farida was the third of his six children and was given the best of education within Nigeria and overseas.
Kaikai, who spoke of his last moments with his late daughter, said she told him of her trip to Lagos, and promised to visit the family in Kaduna upon her return from Lagos. He said he never knew that the text message which he exchanged with his late daughter was going to be their last conversation.
When Stafford Obrutse, executive chairman, Imoniyame Holdings Limited, IHL, boarded the ill-fated Dana Air’s flight, he never had an inclination that it would be his last flight. But as it turned out, the flight was not only his last, it was also one that ended his life and his dream of being numbered among the leading entrepreneurs in the country. Emmanuel Egoh, a businessman and cousin of Obtruse, described the late executive chairman of IHL as a very patriotic, very humble and a quiet achiever. He told Newswatch that he was at the crash site “to see whether we can recover his body and give him a befitting burial.”
A total of 153 persons perished in the air crash, which robbed Nigeria of a cream of its religious, legal, military, security, academics, banking, oil and gas leadership. The victims include Emmanuel Asuquo Obot, a professor and former executive director of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, an associate of World Wildlife Foundation, WWF. Others are Levi Ajuonuma, group general manager, group public affairs division, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC; John Ahmadu, retired deputy inspector-general of Police; Celestine Onwuliri, professor and former vice-chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, who was also the husband of the minister of state for foreign affairs. The trio of lieutenant colonel Chumbo Ochigbo, major I.G. Mohammed and Lieutenant Yusuf Ibrahim who were attending the 2nd Commanding Officers Workshop in Ibadan, before they met their tragic end.
Also killed in the crash were Ehimen Aikhomu, the only son of the late military vice-president, Rear Admiral Augustus Aikhomu; Ibrahim Damcida, former permanent secretary in the ministries of finance, industries, trade and defence and board member of the First City Monument Bank, and Rev Ayodeji Cole, zonal pastor of The Redeemed Evengelical Mission, TREM, Abuja, and his wife. Also Maimuna Anyene died in the crash along with her husband, four children, mother-in-law and two cousins, who arrived from the United States to attend a wedding in Nigeria.
Residents of Iju-Ishaga, Lagos, where the plane crashed recalled how the sad event took place. Femi Ogundare, shepherd of the Itura Parish of the Celestial Church of Christ, CCC, Ayegbami-Okearo, on the outskirts of Lagos, and his congregation had just finished service at around 3.42 p.m that Sunday afternoon. As they trooped out of the church after the Sunday’s worship, they were struck by the sight of a big metal bird flying dangerously low over the church. Although they were familiar with airplanes flying across their premises as the church is on the flight path into Lagos, they knew there was trouble. Barely a minute after, they heard a loud bang. The metal bird, Dana Air Flight 0992 from Abuja to Lagos carrying 153 passengers had crashed about two kilometres away from the CCC into residential and commercial buildings on Popoola Street, off Osoba Way, Iju-Ishaga, Lagos. As some of the trapped passengers shouted for help, the plane exploded in a huge fireball. With thick smoke billowing, it was obvious this would rank among the worst aviation disasters the country has ever known.
Eye witnesses told Newswatch that as the plane approached the vicinity, it headed for an empty parcel of land, about half an hectare, in the area. The expanse of land had just a building of two rooms and parlours. But as the pilot approached the open space, one of its wings cut a coconut tree and then a mango tree on Adebayo Street, thus diverting the aircraft. It missed the open space by a few metres and crashed into about four buildings – a two storey house, two bungalows and a large warehouse where secondary schools text books were packed.
One of the residential buildings and a wharehouse damaged by the crash belonged to Daniel Omowumi, a pastor with the Living Faith Church, aka Winners Chapel. Although no member of his family was killed because they were away when the incident happened, Omowumi told Newswatch that “the only thing left for me is the cloth and shoes I am wearing.”
Bankole Suleiman, a resident of Popoola Street, told Newswatch that he was sleeping when a loud noise woke him. He thought that the sound came from an explosion of electric transformer and his first reaction was to switch off the control meter in the compound. It was later he realised that a plane had crashed in his neighbourhood and he rushed to the crash scene.
Within minutes, thousands of people had swarmed the site either to help rescue the crash victims, steal or satisfy their curiosity while some turned the site to a picnic centre -snapping pictures of the crashed aircraft with their cell phones. Soon, the crowd became a nuisance and a hindrance to the rescue team and fire service men that arrived at the scene in less than 15 minutes. The narrow streets also prevented fire fighters from bringing in their equipment close to the site. Thus, the quick response of fire fighters failed to save the situation. All the passengers aboard the plane - 147 passengers and six crew members - died. Many residents of the buildings into which it crashed also died. And the nation was thrown into mourning.
Babatunde Fashola, governor of Lagos State, who was at the site immediately after the crash, was worried by the sea of onlookers who hampered rescue efforts and appealed to them to make way for rescue teams. “This is a crash site; it is an investigation site and we should keep our distance and allow the first responders to do their work,” he pleaded.
Struck by the enormity of the disaster, the governor said: “This is really a horrific moment for us here and we sympathise and give condolences to all the victims and families. No words can express our pain and grief. It is saddening; it is simply too much.” He declared a seven-day mourning for the dead.
Stella Oduah, minister of aviation, later that evening said the Dana Air flight 0992 from Abuja to Lagos declared an emergency with the Lagos control tower at 11 nautical miles to Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. It, thereafter, disappeared from the Air Traffic Control radar. “The flight was found to have crashed into residents’ buildings at Iju area of Agege with 153 people on board… Our heart and prayers go out to the families of the passengers and the people on the ground who lost their lives in this tragedy,” she told a bewildered nation. According to her, the federal government “will ensure that this incident is thoroughly investigated to determine the exact cause of this incident in order to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.”
President Goodluck Jonathan also declared a three-day national mourning for the dead. He followed this up by visiting the crash scene the following day, Monday, June 4, where he described the incident as “a sad event for all of us,” adding that the crash was a setback to the reforms in the country’s aviation industry. He promised to “thoroughly investigate this accident. The technical people will carry out their responsibility to tell us what went wrong. But we will also look at the administrative issues, which is the part the National Assembly will play. The government will also play its part; so that at the end of the day, we will make sure that this does not repeat itself in this country.” He recalled that only on Saturday, June 2, a Nigerian cargo plane crashed in Ghana with less magnitude. “So, we must do our best for this country and for the world so that the Nigerian airspace will be a safe place,” Jonathan said.
Less than 24 hours after the President’s statement, the Senate passed a resolution mandating the government to withdraw the operational licence of Dana airline. It also requested in the resolution that Harold Demuren, director-general of NCAA, should step aside till investigation is completed. Also on the same day, the federal government suspended indefinitely the operational licence of Dana Airline. The NCAA said this would enable the authorities to investigate the company’s operations to unearth the circumstances that led to the plane crash.
Since the ugly event happened, the question on the lips of many Nigerians was what really caused the crash? One Ben Nnaji, who introduced himself as a trained aerospace systems engineer, who claimed to have travelled on the aircraft May 23, said he had warned the Dana airline that all was not well with the aircraft. “I was on this same Dana plane on the 23rd May, 2012. It was delayed from take-off from MMA2, I saw the Philippine mechanics with buckets draining out hydraulic fluid under the left side of the carriage tyre mechanism. A part was taken out but not replaced, yet we were told to board. I told the flight supervisor my name, and that I am an aerospace systems engineer and that I was concerned at the operational state of the plane. He told me not to worry and that if the plane was not fit, “we won’t fly.’ We landed and the pilot waited at the door to shake me as to say I told you. Sadly, this plane wasn’t taken off service to enable them sort out the hydraulic leakage or landing gear problem. It killed my friends Ehime, Levi and Ijeamaka and the 150 others,” he alleged.
His observation was corroborated by a female staff of Dana airline. She alleged in a broadcast monitored on Channels television on June 5, that the Dana management was aware that the aircraft was not airworthy and had been having persistent hydraulic problems, but allowed it to carry passengers because they wanted to make more money.
For now, all the allegations and claims about the possible cause of the crash, would, at best, be treated as mere speculation. An aviation expert who wishes anonymity, said that no one can rightly say for now what went wrong until the Aviation Investigation Bureau, AIB, finished its investigation and come out with a report after it might have scanned the black box abroad. The age, functionality, serviceability and adherence to line maintenance structure by the airline in question would also form part of the report. He pointed out that the age of an aircraft is not a primary cause of air mishap, as planes much older than 25 years are still flying in the developed countries. According to him, air crash could result from poor maintenance, human error by the pilot, weather, as well as mechanical or electrical faults.
One way to avoid aviation accidents, he said, was through strict line maintenance of aircraft by airline operators in accordance with the rules and regulations of airline operations. This entails every day check on the functionality of the aircraft by maintenance engineers each time the aircraft lands and before taking off for another flight. It is based on these regular checks that an operation engineer would certify an airline fit to fly. Apart from this, the pilot must be satisfied that the aircraft is fit to fly also, else he would write it down in his report and refuse to fly the aircraft and no authority has the power to compel him to fly the aircraft against his will.”Safety in the aviation sector is a planned process to ensure that an incident does not even occur. It must be proactive and preventive for it to be effective,” he said.
Another way of ensuring aviation safety is passengers’ vigilance to observe irregular occurrence and report them to duty operation police, who must make sure those passengers’ observations get to NCAA and the individual airline.
He described the Dana crash as very catastrophic because a plane could collapse like a pack of matches only if its two engines had parked up, or either the wings or the tail might have detached and caused the aircraft to lose balance.
In addition, he said that it was wrong for the Senate to ask the director-general of NCAA to step aside. According to him, Demuren has done much to upgrade the Nigerian air space and won for the country the category ‘A’ rating. Moreover, his stepping aside would deny the investigators access to vital information. “This is the time to find out from the AIB if the NCAA has been carrying out its oversight functions effectively and conducting strict periodic checks that would ensure that the airlines were complying with routine maintenance to enhance passengers’ safety and comfort, as well as the new things he introduced to enhance its regulatory activities.”
While many families are weeping, some whose members missed the flight are rejoicing. The NNPC has clarified that Tony Madichie, its legal adviser and company secretary was alive and did not board the ill-fated Dana Air’s plane. Omar Farouk Ibrahim, general manager, media relations department of NNPC, said that although Madichie bought a ticket to be on the trip in the ill-fated aircraft, he did not board the plane.
Joy Alison, got married in 2010. She and her father travelled to Abuja for different purposes and met at Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja. She bought the Dana Air’s ticket while her father boarded the flight of another airline. Her father made it to Lagos alive while she died in the crash. Another individual who missed the flight narrowly was Paul Apel, a TV producer with Papel Image Tech. A friend who had flown with Dana Air and enjoyed the flight recommended the airline to him. He made up his mind that he would travel with the airline on June 3. But a little delay in his office to tidy some works caused him to miss the flight. He was angry that he missed the flight. Later, when Newswatch interviewed him at the site of the plane crash in Iju-Ishaga, where he was covering the event for a foreign television network, he said that “I do not know how to express the joy I have for missing the flight.”
However, the scene of the plane crash could pose health risks for those living within its environ. Mathias Oladeinde Shoga, a medical practitioner at the Lagos State University College of Medicine, said that an epidemic was likely if necessary precautionary measures were not taken. He advised the people of Iju/Shaga to undergo medical examinations immediately to avoid possible epidemic or other health implications. “Naturally, when this kind of incident happens, the people living around the area must have inhaled smoke and other dangerous chemicals which are injurious to human health, therefore, they need to go for medical test,” he said.
Similarly, Ushiholo Alie, traumatologist, University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, explained that crash scene might pose a serious danger if the debris were not properly evacuated. According to him, there is every possibility of some people going to the crash site to excavate scrap iron materials that may pose a great danger to the people if proper evacuation is not done.
On June 6, the Lagos State government and Dana Airline jointly called a world press conference to address issues surrounding the crash. The press conference which was billed to commence at 12 noon, could not kick off until three hours after the scheduled time. No reason was given for the delay except for speculations that the state government and Dana Air were trying to harmonise their positions to avoid presenting conflicting information to the public.
Ade Ipaye, attorney-general of Lagos State and commissioner for justice, was the first to speak. He reeled out the interventions carried out by the Lagos State government as soon as the disaster happened. The interventions included the deployment of first responders to rescue victims of the crash, evacuation of dead bodies to mortuary facilities in the state and putting together a team of pathologists to identify victims. As at press time, all bodies had been evacuated from the crash site. Of the number, 52 were identifiable while 97 required further scientific probe to identify them. However, given the number in the manifest and from the account at the crash scene that locals in the areas were also killed during the incident, the 149 bodies did not add up. But Ipaye said the number could change as the un-identifiable bodies were still being arranged. He pleaded with families of victims to exercise a little patience until details of identification of bodies were sorted out.
Dana Air, which is in the eye of the storm, was represented by Francis Ogboro, its managing director. He sympathised with families of the deceased and said the company had already set up a “help desk at the MMA 2 to alleviate the sufferings of the victims families. But when asked if the airline’s planes had been having some operational challenges lately, he said no. He said he was surprised to hear on TV and read in the papers that the said aircraft was having problems. He said the company had received commendations for putting safety first. He also denied the story that the same plane had problems in Uyo. He said the aircraft was basically on Lagos and Abuja route and not on Uyo route.
By presstime last week, the management of Dana Air insisted that they were yet to establish the cause of the crash. Jacky Hathiramani, chief executive officer of the airline who addressed the press in Lagos, last Thursday, explained that only the manufacturers of the aircraft could use the black box to establish the cause of the crash and that they were already in the process of doing that.
On compensation to the victims, a lawyer and solicitor to Lloyds of UK in Nigeria, which is the insurer of Dana Air, said after all the forensic work has been done, the insurer would expedite settlement of outstanding claims. The least beneficiary would earn $30,000 while the ceiling is $100,000 to individual victims.
Reported by Demola Abimboye, Sebastine Obasi, Ishaya Ibrahim, Augustine Adah, Chimezie Enyiocha and Anayo Ezugwu
Peter Waxtan: A Profile of the Pilot of the Ill-fated DANA Plane
When Captain Peter Waxtan, the American pilot entered the cockpit of the ill-fated Dana Air’s aircraft that crashed on Sunday, June 3, at Iju-Ishaga, Lagos State, his plan was it that it would be his last flight for the airline, and his last day in Nigeria, and the day he would return to the United States of America. But this plan did not work out in full. The flight, yes, turned out to be his last for Dana Air. It was also his last flight in Nigeria. And as fate would have it, that day became his last flight and his last day on earth. He never made it out of the cockpit and he never returned to his beloved country and his beloved ones. He died that day in the cockpit, trying without success, to see if he could save his life, the lives of his passengers and if possible, the aircraft. He died at the age of 55.
Pat Squires, an American pilot who worked with Waxtan for 15 years, disclosed to Sun Sentinel newspaper in the United States, that he was to return to the United States on Sunday, June 3, the same day the Dana flight 0992 crashed in Lagos and killed 153 people (Waxtan included) on board and at least 10 others on the ground. Squire said that Waxtan was eager to return to the US and spend time with Lisa, his fiancée.
According to Oscar Wason, Dana Air’s director of operations, Waxtan resumed work with Dana Air in March 2012. Since joining the airline, Waxtan spent 30 days flying Dana’s planes and another 15 days on off duty
Waxtan has worked at Spirit from 1997 to 2009 until his appointment, along with that of Squires, was terminated over a trade union dispute with the airline. “It was a political thing,” Squires said. Both men left the Spirit for the Falcon Air Express, a Miami-based charter service. Their stay at Falcon came to an end last year. Waxtan later joined Dana Air, where he died last week. Squires described his friend as a consummate professional. “He was the best MD-80 captain I’ve ever seen,” said Squires, adding that “he did everything he could to save that aircraft. In the end, if he knew it was going down, he did everything he could to minimise the amount of damage on the ground. If nothing else, his efforts were heroic.”
A flight attendant who knew Waxtan described his passing away as devastating, “It’s just so devastating,” said the flight attendant.
Onyeka Anyene; Hurria Lawal; Maimuna Anyene; Bakisumiadi Yindadi; Ebuka Enuma; Oluchi Onyeyiri; Sunday Enuma; George Moses; Ogechi Njoku; Noah Anyene; Kamsiyona Anyene; Stanford Obrutse; Kaiyenotochi Anyene; Okeke Hope; Rev. Ayodeji Cole; Ngozi Cole; Noah Anyene; Ailende Ehi; Oluwasegun Funmi Abiodun; Shehu Sahad Usman; Alade Martins; Onita Jennifer (Mrs); Onita Josephine; Ike Ochonogo; Joy Alison; John Ahmadu; Akowe Fatokun Anjola; Fatokun Olaoluwa; Fatokun Ibukun; Buhari Maikudi; Amina Idris Bugaje; Ajani Adenle; IkeAbugu; Adijolola Abraham; Obot Emmanuel; Otegbeye Hadiza; Ehioghae Sunny; Onwuliri Celestine; Abikalio Otatoru; Noris Kim; Eyo Bassey; Njoku Charles; Anibaba Tosin; Okocha Christopher; Sobowale Femi; and Phillip Chukwu Ebuka, Sparagano Lawrence; Somolu Oluwakemi; Ariyibi Temitope.
Meche Eke; Ojugbana Amaka; Ojugbana Christopher; Buna Walter; Coker Olumide; Lilian Lass; Mutittir Itsifanus; Yusuf Alli; Lt. Col. Jumbo Ochigbo; Eribake Wale; Zhai Shuta; Wang Yu; P. Awani; O. Awani; N. Chidiac; Rijoel Dhose; Li Hizha; Apochi Godwin; Lang Yi; Yinusa Ahmed; Faysal Inusa; Mojekwu Adaobi; Ibrahim D; Bamaiyi Adamu; Ifekowa Jones; Peter Nosike; Anthony Nwaokocha; Mahmud Aliyu; Nnadi John; Akweze Elizabeth; Dorothy Adedunni; Echeidu Ibe; Maria Okulehi; Jennifer Ibe; Okoko junjip; Sarah Mshelia; Ahmed Mbana; Okonji Patrick; Oyosoro Rajuli; Oyosoro Ugbabio; Kaikai Farida; David Kolawole Fortune; Eyinoluwa David Kolawole; Kaltum Abubakar; and Dakawa Mahmud.
Patience Sunday Udoh; Asuquo Iniebong; Onemonelese Aimeihi; Onyeagocha Chidinma; Onyeagocha Ogechi; Ike Okoye; Amaka Raphael; Ijeoma Onyinjuke; Garba Abdul; Aisha Abdul; Benson Oluwayomi; Anthony Opara; Taiwo Lamidi; Awodogan Olusanmi; Obi Chinwe; Shaibu Memuna; Major I.G Mohammed; Nagidi Ibrahim; Attah Anthonia; Shaibu Sam; Ifeanyi Orakwe; Obinna Akubueze; Li Rui; Xie Zhenfeng; Oko Eseoghene; Chukwuemeka Okere; Adetunbi Adebiyi; Ibrahim Mantakari; Was Ruth; Wasa Awiyetu; Ojukwu Alvana; Lawal Anakobe; Nabil Garba; Mohammed Falmata; Ibrahim Jangana; Okikiolu Olukayode; Komolafe Olugbenga; Dike Chinwe; Dike Chike Ezugo; Olusola Arokoyo; Adetola Ayoola; Akinola Olumodeji; Olukoya Banji Saka Otaru; Adeleke Oluwadamilare; Yusuf Ibrahim; Ikpohi Obiola; Aikhomu Ehimen; Levi Ajuonuma; Mbong Eventus.