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Black Saturday in P/Harcourt: 103 perish in plane crash *50 students are victims, 7 survivors

Posted by ROTIMI AJAYI, KENNETH EHIGIATOR, JOHN IGHODARO, VICTORIA OJEME, DAPO AKINREFON on 2005/12/10 | Views: 467 |

Black Saturday in P/Harcourt: 103 perish in plane crash *50 students are victims, 7 survivors


EXACTLY 47 days after 117 people lost their lives in a plane crash in Lisa, Ogun State, a Sosoliso Airlines DC-9 Flight 1145 from Abuja crashed at Port Harcourt at exactly 2.08 p.m., yesterday, killing 103.

EXACTLY 47 days after 117 people lost their lives in a plane crash in Lisa, Ogun State, a Sosoliso Airlines DC-9 Flight 1145 from Abuja crashed at Port Harcourt at exactly 2.08 p.m., yesterday, killing 103.

Seven of the 110 people on board the aircraft with registration number 5N-BFD were crew members while 50 were said to be students of Loyola Jesuit College, Karu, Abuja, returning home on holidays.

75 students of the college, according to reports, were initially scheduled to make the trip. But, 25 reportedly stayed back in Abuja for a retreat, thus escaping death.

An unconfirmed report said the husband of a former secretary to Rivers State Government was another victim.
At press time, 60 bodies had been recovered from the wreckage of the plane as rescue operation continued for much of the evening yesterday.

Although the cause of the crash was not immediately known, Sunday Vanguard gathered that the aircraft was hit by thunderstorm which made it to catch fire on its final descent on runway 21. When it hit the runway, the impact reportedly broke the plane into two.

Most of the victims of the plane crash were said to have been burnt to death while the seven survivors escaped with serious injuries.

The tarmac where the crash occurred was a horrific scene with corpses everywhere.
“The place where I am standing now is littered with corpses”, a worker at the Port Harcourt International Airport who was part of the rescue team told Sunday Vanguard on phone.

Spokesman of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Mr. Ben Bem Goong, told newsmen yesterday that at the time of the crash, visibility was in the range of 12 kilometres which, according to him, was within acceptable range.
He said the relevant aviation agencies, including the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), NAMA and people of the airport community at Omagwa responded promptly for rescue operations.

According to him, the promptness of rescue was propelled by an helicopter which was about to land at the time of the crash and which perched down immediately to trigger rescue efforts.

But Commercial Manager of Sosoliso Airlines, Mr. Chimaobi Oji, said yesterday that the fire tenders deployed by FAAN to the scene had no hydrant to quench the fire that engulfed the aircraft.

Quoting eyewitness accounts, Goong confirmed that the aircraft burst into flames just 1200metres to the threshold of runway 21, adding that while rescue operation was going on shortly after the aircraft touched down, the heavens opened up.
He said the Aviation minister, Prof. Babalola Borishade, who left the country on an official engagement to Canada days ago, had cut short his stay in that country and would be briefing the press on the crash today.

Sunday Vanguard enquiries at Sosoliso-ticketing desk at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, where the ill-fated plane took off, revealed, last night, that the passenger manifest of the flight had been handed over to the State Security Service (SSS).

The ticketing officer who declined to identify herself told Sunday Vanguard and other anxious relatives that the manifest would not be made available until the airline obtained clearance from the SSS.
An Italian Embassy staffer who also came to make enquiries was offered the same explanation.
According to the ticketing officer, “I don’t have any information about the flight details, I am not allowed to say anything concerning the flight details, only the station manager can give any additional information”.

Meanwhile, the airport has been closed to traffic to make way for full rescue operation, while preliminary investigation by the Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau (AIPB) has begun.

Reacting to the crash, former Chairman of Nigerian Aviation Safety Initiative (NASI), Capt. Tito Omaghomi, told Sunday Vanguard on phone yesterday that the crash was a manifestation of the rot in the aviation sector.
Omaghomi, who flew for the presidential fleet and liquidated Nigeria Airways for 35 years, re-echoed his recent comments in a Vanguard interview, saying planes would continue to drop off the sky as long as the rot in the aviation industry remained uncleared.

“Well, go back to my interview; I told you more will be happening. The rot in the system is manifesting now. I told you it will happen, this is only the beginning. May the souls of the dead rest in perfect peace. Amen!”, he said.
Relatedly, Aero Contractors has put off official launch of its new Boeing 737-300 aircraft earlier billed for today in honour of the crash victims, while also condoling with Sosoliso Airlines’ management.

Managing Director of the airline, Mr. Koen Neven, said “our thoughts and prayers are with Sosoliso, families and friends of those who lost their lives in the crash.”

Sosoliso Airlines just celebrated its 5th anniversary some three months ago in Enugu. The airline currently has five aircraft including the ill-fated DC-9 aircraft. Designated by the Aviation Ministry to fly some regional routes early this year, Sosoliso Airlines has just acquired an MD-82 aircraft to boost its preparation for the regional operations.

Nigerian airports have come under severe criticism in recent months following a string of near misses and an incident in which an Air France passenger jet crashed into a herd of cows on the runway at Port Harcourt International Airport.
International airlines also briefly suspended flights at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos because of holes on the runway.

On October 22, an Abuja-bound Boeing 737-200 crashed after taking off from the airport at Lagos, killing 117 people on board Bellview Airlines Flight.

The cause of the crash is unknown but U.S. investigators sent to help the investigation ruled out terrorism, an official at the Aviation Ministry said last month.


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Comments (3)

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Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

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Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

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Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown