Eyewitness reports- Pilot tried to avert crash, death toll now placed at 170
Eyewitness accounts of the ill fated Dana Air plane crash on Sunday in Nigeria’s commercial hub, Lagos said the pilot made attempts to avoid the crash in the densely populated Iju-Ishaga area of the state.
Speaking to Journalist on Monday while rescue and cleanup was ongoing, eyewitnesses gave different accounts of what they saw on Sunday.
Eyewitnesses said the aircraft had attempted an emergency landing on a school field in Iju area but climbed out again before suddenly dropping out of the sky.
Other eyewitnesses claimed that there were survivors from the initial impact who signalled for help as they banged on the aircraft windows but none came as the plane was already on fire.
The huge inferno engulfed some buildings and it took about 40 minutes after the crash for firemen from the Lagos State Fire Service and their counterparts from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, to get to the crash site.
Initial efforts were hampered by difficulties in accessing the site and huge crowd who converged on the site, many of them taking pictures and filming the accident.
Thousands of people trooped to the site of the crash while many of them violated the scene before the arrival of security agencies who later combed the area.
An eyewitness, who identified himself as Mr. Adewale Kazeem, said that he was around the area when he saw the aircraft hovering and eventually crashed at the site.
He said: “I saw the plane coming down in my presence. So many people scampered for safety, but there was nothing anybody could do to render any help. I will say the security people responded quickly as they came here less than 20 minutes after the crash.”
“For almost an hour nobody could move close to the scene as fire and thick smoke enveloped the plane. The pilot tried all his best dodging several buildings before the plane eventually crashed,” Chukwuma who live around the area said.
“It was God that saved our lives. It could have been our building but the pilot diverted the tragedy to another area. The plane came down as if it wanted to land in front of our house, then it went up again before it landed on Popoola Street in Toyin area,” another resident said.
“When we first saw it we ran inside. The pilot made attempt to land on the rail line but took off again. Its wings cut off trees along the area before it eventually crashed on Olaniyi/Poopola Street,” said Mrs. Tayo Kayode.
Following the crash on Sunday, the Lagos Medical Guild, the body of medical doctors in the service of Lagos State, called out its striking members to immediately resume at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Ikeja, and Ifako Ijaye General Hospital to render emergency services to the victims of the crash.
In a message to the doctors, the General Secretary, Dr. Idris Durojaiye, members were asked to jettison the earlier directive instructing them to go to the hospitals to pick up their recall letters and attend the Nigeria Medical Association general meeting taking place at LASUTH today.
The doctors, according to Idris, are to get to the hospitals immediately to manage the cases.
As at the time of filing this report, the LASUTH Chief Medical Director, Prof. David Oke, said only about two had already shown up but hoped others would help out.
He confirmed that casualties were already being brought in and the hospital was trying all it could do within the available facilities to deal with the situation.
Also, The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had visited the crash site on Monday, and expressed his readiness to ensure aviation safety in the country.
Speaking to newsmen at the site, Jonathan said, “We have been working very hard to improve the aviation in this country,” Jonathan said after viewing the destruction caused by Sunday’s crash. “This particular incident is a major setback for us… By the end of the day, I will make sure that this will not repeat itself in the country.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah, on Sunday night said the Dana Airlines McDouglass 83 plane, which crashed into a Lagos building with 153 people on board had sent out distress signals minutes before its disastrous crash.
Oduah, who arrived Lagos today from Abuja for a press briefing on the crash of the ill-fated flight, told reporters at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority headquarters, Murtala Muhammed Airport in Ikeja that as at 9:20 p.m. no survivors had been rescued from the smoldering wreckage.
The Aviation Minister, already investigating the details of the crash, said that the Lagos-bound flight had declared emergency with the Lagos control tower at 3:43 p.m., at 11 nautical miles to Murtala Muhammed Airport.
Visibly tearful, Oduah added that “a minute later, the aircraft was found to have crashed into residential buildings at Iju area of Agege with 153 people on board”.
“At this time, no survivors have been found. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the passengers and the people on the ground who lost their lives in this tragedy.”
Oduah, reiterating President Jonathan’s initial directive, assured that the Federal Government will launch a thorough investigation to ascertain the exact cause of the deadly accident.
She also said that rescue efforts at the crash site were still ongoing and more rescue workers will be dispatched to the site to aid in relief effort.
Stakeholders are however worried that after consistent repairs and in spite of the reported emergency landing about two weeks ago, which engineer certified the aircraft airworthy for the ill-fated flight ?
According to them, the aircraft had given enough signals for it to be grounded before the tragedy which claimed the lives of innocent passengers.
At the moment, the management of Dana Air has grounded operations and passengers for its other flights were asked to come for the refund of their money both in Lagos and Abuja.
As at the time of filing this report, heavy Police presence as noticed at the Ikeja office of Dana airlines in Lagos and the blackbox of the ill fated flight has been found.