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Bellview Crash-lands in Ghana

Posted by By Ndubuisi Francis in Lagos, Chuks Okocha in Port Harcourt and Kingsley Nweze in Abuja on 2005/12/20 | Views: 589 |

Bellview Crash-lands in Ghana


A Bellview B737-200 aircraft which took off from Lagos yesterday morning enroute to Accra (Ghana) and Freetown (Sierra Leone) crash-landed at the Kotoka International Airport, Accra, after suffering hydraulic failure.

Borishade: I’ll resign if...

A Bellview B737-200 aircraft which took off from Lagos yesterday morning enroute to Accra (Ghana) and Freetown (Sierra Leone) crash-landed at the Kotoka International Airport, Accra, after suffering hydraulic failure.

This comes on the heels of a call for the resignation of Aviation Minister, Dr. Babalola Borishade, by the parents of students of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja who were among the victims of the December 10, 2005 Sosoliso air crash in Port Hacpourt, Rivers State, which claimed over 100 lives.

Borishade, who wept profusely yesterday, conditionally accepted the call provided it would solve the problem in the sector.

THISDAY investigations revealed that the pilot of the Bellview Flight 252 carrying about 63 passengers, including Dr. Mary Ali, wife of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), National Chairman, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, made an emergency landing in Accra, after suffering a hydraulic system failure.

Other passengers in the aircraft were top bureaucrats, including Mallam Gana, a deputy director in the Foreign Affairs Ministry and one Malam Musa Safi.
One of the passengers who spoke with THISDAY on phone from Accra last night said "it was a very serious thing for which the airport was closed for four hours but we thank God that we are alive to tell our story."

To this end, the government of Ghana yesterday annou-nced that it had instituted a three-man panel to investigate the cause of the mishap.

In a news report monitored on Ghana Television last night, Ghana civil aviation authorities also said all the relevant agencies were put on alert in the course of the crash-landing to ensure no life was lost.

The statement added that the passengers were quickly evacuated from the scene of the incident after which the aircraft was towed to the hangar.

According to agency reports monitored in Lagos, the pilot had sent a distress call while approaching the Accra Airport and suffered a tyre burst as the aircraft landed.

Agency reports, quoting the Public Relations Director for the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Eric Noi, stated that "the pilot had earlier radioed the control tower in Accra, declaring an emergency during descent to land at Accra Airport due to a hydraulic system failure".

But in Lagos, the airline's spokeman, Habib Mohammed, said the pilot had noticed a flat tyre while the aircraft landed on the runway at about 11.50 am local time, adding that, at that point, the pilot's discretion was put into use as he stopped the aircraft.

At this stage, according to Mohammed, the aircraft was towed away from the runway where the flat tyre was changed before the flight continued to Freetown.

On the possible cause of the tyre incident, Mohammed said the tyre may have picked a nail which punctured it.

It would be recalled that a Bellview B737-200 aircraft which took off from the Murtala Muhammed Airport enroute Abuja crashed in Lisa Village of Ifo, Ogun State on October 22, 2005 killing all 117 passengers and crew on board. Investigation into the cause of the air mishap is still ongoing.

Barely two months after the tragedy, a Sosoliso DC-9 aircraft which took off from the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja crashed at the Port Harcourt Airport on December 10, 2005, killing about 107 of the 109 passengers on board.

The Cockpit Voice Recorder and Flight Data Recorder of the aircraft have already been recovered and sent abroad for analysis.

Before the Sosoliso air tragedy, a Beechcraft 200 aircraft belonging to a Maiduguri-based businessman crashed in Kaduna killing the two occupants on board, including the pilot.

Apart from these major accidents, the nation's aviation industry has been beset by a spate of incidents and near crashes which have triggered sweeping reforms in the aviation industry.

meanwhile, parents of the students of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja who died in the December 10, 2005 Sosoliso air crash in Port Harcourt yesterday called on the Minister of Aviation, Dr. Babalola Borishade to resign from office for alleged incompetence and acts of insensitivity.

To drive home their case for his resignation, they immediately walked out on the miniter after presenting their demand in Port Harcourt.
But the minister in a swift reaction to the parents' demand, said he was willing to resign his position if that would bring to an end the question of air mishap in Nigeria.

The Senate had last week requested the minister to resign although President Olusegun Obasanjo said he was yet to get the Senate's request.

Presenting their position at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Jesus House located along Aba Road, Port Harcourt, the parents in a prepared statement read on their behalf by Engr. Joe Egwele, President of the Loyola Jesuit College (LJC), Parents Associations said: “In our opinion, this is a gross dereliction of duty by the Aviation Ministry of which you are the Chief Executive. In view of the foregoing, we unreservedly demand the immediate resignation of the Honourable Minister. This we believe is in tandem with the demand of the generality of Nigerians.”

The statement continued: “We also demand the dismissal of the aviation officials whose gross negligence contributed to the carnage and ultimate demise of our innocent children, leading to the eclipse of a generation of some of Nigeria’s brightest and best.”

The parents who berated the minister for coming late to Port Harcourt said “we wish to thank the Honourable Minister for finding time in his very busy schedule to visit Port Harcourt more than a week after the crash. It is on record that three air crashes have been recorded within forty days prior to the Sosoliso Flight 1145, and yet no visible crash preventive or management structure has been put in place by your ministry.”

According to the parents: “ We the parents of the students of LJC, Abuja wish to state our position on the Sosoliso Flight 1145 of December 10, 2005 as follows:

•That the Federal Ministry of Aviation together with its parastatals and agencies are guilty of gross negligence, dereliction of duty and incompetence in the events prior to the crash, during the rescue efforts and the management of the post crash situation.

•That the air worthiness of the said Sosoliso aircraft was doubtful.
•That there was no electric power supply at the airport facility for at least four hours prior to the crash.

•That there was no information to the public and concerned parties at the airport, prior to and after the crash.

•That there was total absence of functioning firefighting equipment and apparatus at the airport to arrest the situation after the crash, particularly since the plane was not totally engulfed in flames upon crash landing.

•There was also a total absence of a professionally coordinated emergency rescue operation at the airport immediately, following the accident, resulting in the massive loss of lives.

•There was a complete absence of medical equipment and personnel for at least 45 minutes following the crash.

•There was also an absence of a central crisis management facility to coordinate the post crash situation.

•The gross misinformation and mis representation of facts by the officials of the Aviation Ministry in obvious attempts to cover up their incompetence and bungled handling of the situation further compounded the misery and distress of the affected parents and other relations.

According to the aggrieved parents, “we demand that the representatives of the aviation authorities and other government officials immediately retract statements they made that rescue operations were prompt and adequate and that the fire-fighting equipment were functioning that day. We also demand an advertised apology.”

Soon after presenting the speech, the protesting parents with placards walked out on the minister. Some of the placards were with such inscriptions as “Go, Borishade, Go” and "Fix Our Airports”.

But in a swift reaction, the minister said that he would offer to resign if such would bring an end to air disasters in the country.

“I appreciate the grief of the parents. If my resignation is going to stop air disasters in Nigeria, I will resign any time. If after my resignation we would not have any air disasters or crash, I am ready to resign.", he said.

According to Borishade, “I feel the pains myself. I would have done what the parents have done. But I know that some of them believe in God, because God knows more than we do...

“I believe that God has a hand in the crash. There is no doubt that we did quite a few things that could have been done quite differently, that would have made a change”, he stated.

On why it took him time to come to Port Harcourt, the minister said, “I could not have rushed earlier than now because I have to arrange this meeting. I was not in the country when the accident happened. It was the very day I arrived I went to LJC and had a meeting with the parents as well as the students. Over the weekend, I had to arrange this meeting to get the parents to come. This is not my first contact with them.”

Following the action of the parents, Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Basil Omiyi apologised to the minister.

“On behalf of the parents, I apologise to you. Our parents are in pains. If I lost three or two children, as they did, I will feel as they did. I plead for them and please don’t judge them with what has happened. As parents, we have feeling. This is not the time to articulate those feelings. Imagine the parents waiting for their children to come home, only to meet their deaths... My plea is that whatever that has happened is a reflection of their mood", Omiyi said

The minister had assured the parents that no stone would be left unturned in seeing that all their complaints were addressed. Weeping, Professor Borishade said that government will use the crash as an opportunity to ensure the complete turnaround of the aviation sector.

He lamented that the equipment in the airports were obsolete, to the extent that the Aviation school, Zaria, Kaduna State could not produce any pilot in the last 14 years and the airports had no perimeter fencing, a situation that led cows colliding with airplanes at the runway.

He said that there is hope and commitment that there would be a turn around but could not complete his speech as tears overwhelmed him.

Earlier, the Assistant Pastor of the church, Rev. Sunny Wogu who read from Thessalonians, Chapter 4, verse 14 spoke of hope in life after death. He called on the parents of the victims to put their hope in God.

Another parent who lost two children (A boy and a girl), Mr. Ubani, said that they were not hopeless. According to him “we have hope, we understand the enormity of this problem, we are not interested in revenge, vengeance is of the Lord, but shall never forget, but we have forgiven. We shall forgive, but never forget."

The pastor later berated the parents for walking out on the minister, describing it as “betrayal."

Meanwhile, the minister has directed Virgin Nigeria and Aero Contractors to increase their flight frequencies to Abuja and Port Harcourt.

Borishade, according to a statement, signed by his Special Assistant, Mr Remi Ibitola, and made available to newsmen in Lagos weekend, gave the directive based on the need to ease the problems of travellers.

Ibitola stated that Virgin Nigeria had already agreed to increase its daily frequency to Abuja by two flights and with an additional frequency to Port Harcourt.

He said Aero Contractor had also agreed to increase its frequency by one flight to Abuja and Port Harcourt.

In another development, the Federal Government yesterday asked the Presidential Task Force on Aviation Industry to produce within three months a report recommending the panacea to the industry.

In a statement issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette, government expressed unhappiness over the current situation pervading the aviation sector.

The Air Vice Marshal Paul Dike-led panel is, according to its terms of reference, "to identify the remote and immediate causes of dereliction in the aviation industry; critically examine the current status of the nation's airports, facilities, equipment and associated infrastructure with a view to identifying those in need of repairs or replacement in accordance with ICAO standards and regulations."

It is also to identify among others, the level of maintenance and the competency of both in-house and out-sourced maintenance of the facilities at the airports as well as liase with respective airports administrators, other government agencies and officials of the airlines and design a sustainable mechanism to ensure regular maintenance of the facilities and protection of physical assets at the airports.


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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.