Three kids who escaped death by the whiskers when the Dana plane crashed into their two-storey building sobbed uncontrollably yesterday, asking where their parents had gone.
The kids – Joel (11 years), Esther (9) and Chisom Okwuchukwu (7) – told LEADERSHIP that their parents sent them on errand, but when they came back they discovered that the ill-fated Dana commercial aircraft had crashed into their residential apartment.
They told our correspondent that they slept in the house of a Good Samaritan on the night of the incident, wailing that they had not seen their parents since the incident occurred.
The eldest of the three kids, Joel, explained that their father had asked him and Chisom to go and call Esther who was earlier sent to call an electrician from the neighbourhood but had not returned.
The embattled children said they could only remember the name of one of their uncles in Abuja, Tony Okechukwu.
However, Lagos State governor Mr. Babatunde Fashola has taken custody of the children. He took them to the Lagos State House, Ikeja, pending when a relative of theirs would be found.
He said government was ready to take care of the children, adding that they were fully protected.
The governor, who spoke with journalists after inspection of the site of the crash said, “My sympathy and condolences go to all of the victims and their families. It is really hard finding words to express our pain and grief here, but our condolences go out to the family of the bereaved and friends and relations – ordinary people trying to earn a living ended up so tragically and the families of young Nigerians whose lives have been cut short.
“It is a very traumatic and painful experience but we condole with the management and staff of Dana Air and we want to commend the first responder, the fire service, LASEMA, NEMA, Red Cross for the support received.”
The governor who appealed to the media and other people thronging to the site of the crash to allow rescue operations to take place noted that the site is not a tourist site.
“It is an investigation site and we should keep our distance and allow the first responder to do their work. The difference between whether anybody would have survived or not is a question of how quickly they can get to that person and we should not be in the way of the first responder when they come to this kind of site,” the governor said.
NEMA recovers 135 bodies
More bodies have been recovered from ongoing operations by emergency and security agencies at the site of the crash in Iju-Ishaga area of Agege, Lagos.
Oke Osanyintolu, who heads the Lagos State arm of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said 135 bodies have so far been evacuated from the site while efforts to remove the remaining bodies were ongoing.
The director, search and rescue for NEMA, Bankole Abayomi, also confirmed in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP that search-and-rescue teams have since found the plane’s black box flight recorder, and it has been handed over to the police.
“This is really a horrific moment for us here and we sympathise with and give condolences to all the victims and families. No words to express our pain and grief,” Fashola, yesterday continued at the crash site. “It is saddening; it is simply too much.”
Hordes of curious and sympathetic residents of the area who had thronged the site on Sunday immediately after it occurred, encumbering access to the wreckage by rescue workers, were still gathered, albeit in reduced numbers.
A resident, who claimed to have seen the crash happen, said it first struck a mango tree before ramming into the compound, shattering houses and killing some of the occupants.
Abayomi Adeolu, the brother of one of the dead victims at 41, Akande Street, off Popoola Street, said he had left the house just minutes earlier to fetch some water, only to return to the chilling sight of his brother’s scattered body parts, alongside those of two girls from another flat. “I saw my brother in pieces. He was dead. He was totally dead. I only went out to fetch water … but I came back to meet him dead. I have no one now,” he wailed.
Jonathan condoles with victims
President Goodluck Jonathan has condoled with the families of the victims of the Dana plane that crashed. He also vowed that his government would investigate the reason for the crash.
The president arrived at the site of the crash with Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola, minister of aviation Mrs. Stella Oduah, chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation Hope Uzodinma, chairman of the House Committee on Avaiation Nkiruka Onyejeocha, acting inspector-general of police Mohammed Abubakar, director of state security service Ita Ekpeyong, top military officers and other top government officials.
Jonathan said: “Let me use this unique opportunity to extend my condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives.” He said although his administration had made some improvement in the aviation sector, the Dana air crash was a major setback.
Jonathan assured that there would be an investigation into the crash . “The technical people will do the investigation. We will also look at administrative issues. This is where the National Assembly will play its part. The government will also play a role.”
The president vowed that the aviation sector would be made safer. He also commended Governor Fashola and the Lagos State government for being on top of the situation. Jonathan appreciated the effort of the government and private emergency services while not forgetting journalists who, he said, had been informing the public about the disaster.
The two aviation committee chairmen of the National Assembly, who spoke earlier, promised that the lawmakers would conduct independent investigation of the crash.
“It is a difficult thing for us. Our hearts bleed for our brothers and sisters. Our hearts go to the famillies of those that lost their lives. We pray that it will not happen again,” said Onyejeocha.
Death toll now over 200 – Lagos, NEMA
The death toll in the Dana Air disaster has risen to over 200. Government officials involved in the rescue operation told LEADERSHIP last night that more than 60 residents of the building crushed by the plane have lost their lives. Officials of the Lagos State branch of the National Emergency Management Service that worked throughout the night said many residents of the two-storey buildings on Olaniyi Street were killed by the crash.
About eight others were rescued and presently receiving treatment at Lagos State Teaching Hospital. At the time of filing this report, 145 bodies from the Ill-fated aircraft had been recovered. This is made up of 46 females, 87 males and 12 children.
Only God will Console Us – NNPC
The group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Engr. Austin Oniwon, has prayed God to comfort and console families who lost their loved ones in the ill-fated Dana flight which crashed in Lagos Sunday, killing all 159 passengers and crew aboard, including the spokesman of the NNPC, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma.
The NNPC GMD, who is presently attending an official engagement in the United States said the management and staff of the corporation received with great shock the news of the air crash involving Dana Airlines Flight 0992 from Abuja to Lagos on Sunday, in Iju-ishaga area of Lagos.
In a statement made available to LEADERSHIP, Oniwon said that the “NNPC as a family is united in faith with God who is all-knowing,” adding: “It is only God that can comfort and console us at this dark hour.
“I pray for the repose of the gentle souls of our departed colleagues, members of their families and other Nigerians and international passengers and crew in the ill-fated aircraft and for God to grant the nation, the nuclear families that lost their beloved ones, the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.”
Oniwon also extended his condolences to President Jonathan, the minister of petroleum resources Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and members of the NNPC and the Nigerian oil and gas industry that lost a number of their colleagues in the disaster. He noted that it was a trying period, and urged the NNPC family to keep faith.