The Dana Airline flight from Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, had less than three minutes to make it to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, but it did not make it. It crashed into residential buildings at Olaniyi Street, Iju, a suburb of Lagos, killing more than 30 others on the ground.
The Dana airplane came down at exactly 3.45pm. The plane which obviously had problem in the air tried unsuccessfully to make it but crashed into a church, Mountain of Fire, and a two-storey building. The impact of the crash on the building led to a massive fire which prevented immediate rescue operations.
Some of those who lost their lives include a northern elder and a retired federal permanent secretary under General Yakubu Gowon and Murtala Muhammed’s government, Alhaji Ibrahim Damcida; the spokesman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Levi Ajuonuma; a director of Mainstreet Bank, Shehu Sa’ad; Ehimie Aikhomu, Professor Celestine Onwuliri, the husband of the minister of state for foreign affairs, Prof Viola Onwuliri and a family of seven, among others.
It was also alleged that the ill-fated Dana plane had been under repair for several weeks and the airline’s station manager protested its use, but the Indian management was said to have insisted it should fly.
The aircraft must have sent distress signals to the airport as its fire fighters from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) were the first to arrive the scene 30 minutes after the plane went down.
A police chopper was the first to locate the scene of the crash a few minutes after it happened, which facilitated quick
mobilisation of fire fighters to the scene.
The fire was eventually put out at about 6.35pm before rescue efforts could begin. As at the time LEADERSHIP left the area, three dead bodies of residents of the two-storey building had been pulled out of the rubble while the plane itself created a deep crater at the church.
About 15 people were said to be inside the church building holding a meeting when the plane went down.
The plane, which flew dangerously for more than five minutes, pulled down a mango tree and an electric pole. “We thank God that it did not hit our house,” says Angela Umoru, an eyewitness.
Speaking on the disaster, the director-general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Harold Denuren, said the flight was heading from Abuja to Lagos, the capital. He further said, “I don’t believe there are any survivors.”
In August 2010, the US announced it had given Nigeria the FAA’s Category 1 status, its top safety rating that allows the nation’s domestic carriers to fly directly to the US.
This latest incident came after another plane crash on Saturday night in Accra, capital of the nearby West African nation of Ghana, which saw a cargo plane overshoot a runway and hit a passenger bus, killing at least 10 people.
The Allied Air cargo plane had departed from Lagos and was to land in Accra.
Ill-fated aircraft had escaped crash before
The Dana aircraft which killed all 153 passengers and crew members on board and several other people on the ground is said to have narrowly escaped a crash in the last couple of weeks before yesterday’s fatal accident.
LEADERSHIP investigations revealed that the aircraft, Dana Air MD-83 5-RAM, was formerly an Alaska Airline plane built in 1990.
The reports have it that the crashed plane was the same one that had a landing gear problem in Uyo a couple of weeks back.
The aircraft also reportedly developed hydraulic problem midair and had to make emergency landing three weeks ago in Lagos.
The manufacturers of the MD aircraft are said to have stopped producing it and are in the process of phasing it out.