By Mike Ebonugwo & Jude Njoku
As Nigerians await experts analysis of the black box recovered from the ill-fated Dana Air Mcdonnell Douglas MD-83 plane that crashed at Iju-Ishaga, Lagos, speculations remain high as to why it crashed. But an eyewitness, Leke Busari, who spoke with Vanguard Metro was convinced that a possible technical fault with the aircraft notwithstanding, the pilot erred in his judgement for failing to take advantage available to him in making a safe emergency landing at the near-by Oke Arin airstrip at Makogun Road, Ishaga.
“I’m sure that the plane would not have crashed and killed everybody on board if the pilot had landed at Oke Arin Emergency airstrip. In fact, when I saw the plane hovering over the area, I realised immediately it had a problem, believing that the pilot was trying to make an emergency landing there.
But instead of doing so, I saw the plane heading towards the direction of the airport. Maybe the pilot thought he could still manage to land there. Unfortunately, the plane could not make it and crashed into that building,” he said with a sad shake of his head.
On her own part, a female staff of the airline who spoke to a local television station said the ill-fated plane was not supposed to fly in the first instance because the station manager had earlier certified it unfit to fly. But the management of the company allegedly insisted that the pilot must take off.
“That aircraft has always been giving problems. Actually, a colleague flew with the aircraft sometime ago to Abuja and when the aircraft got there, it developed a fault, so they could not bring it back. They sent another set of crew members to go there and bring it back and it carried passengers.
“There was another instance when it went to Uyo and developed a fault there. It took about six hours to fix it and by the time they fixed it, they still used it on a complete trip. When I say complete trip, I mean that they didn’t come back straight to Lagos. They took it from Uyo to Abuja, Abuja back to Uyo and back to Abuja before coming back to Lagos.
“Yesterday, before the thing crashed, it was not supposed to leave Lagos at-all. There is this regulation that aircraft should be checked and engineers should certify that it is fit to fly. That day(Sunday), it was checked and proved that it was not fit to take off in that journey at all. The Station Manager also said they shouldn’t go on that journey but the management said they should fly,” she narrated
A day after the crash of the aircraft, the Lagos State government has ordered residents of the affected areas to vacate and relocate to its Relief Camp at Agbowa. Governor Babatunde Fashola who gave the directive, explained that buildings in the area which were impacted by the crash have become unhabitable.
But the order did not go down well with the residents who insisted on remaining in their homes instead of moving in a camp for refugees. The State Government, the Governor explained, would pull down all the distressed buildings and fumigate the area to ensure that residents do not contact communicable diseases.
It would be recalled that the Agbowa relief camp in Ikorodu provided temporary shelter for over 1019 Internal Displaced Person (IDP) from Ajegunle in Agboyi-Ketu Local Council Development Area, LCDA during last year’s flooding in the area.
Meanwhile, security operatives had a hectic time controlling the milling crowd of curious on-lookers surging towards the scene of the crash. But determined to enforce the restriction order of movement to the crash site, the stern-looking police men had erected emergency, makeshift barriers to keep the crowd at bay, sometimes brandishing guns and batons to scare away the more daring of the onlookers.
There is no puzzle whatsoever why the plane crashed.
From all indications, the plane crashed because it is not airworthy.
Secondly the management placed profit before safety hence they did not listen to the station manager.
Thirdly management did not have respect for Nigeria as a constituted authority or they would have obeyed its laws and more importantly they do not value the lives of Nigerians; or else they would have listened to the station manager.
Dana management should be made to face the full weight of the law so that the action will serve as a deterrent to others airlines who would want to fly rejected, faulty and outdated aircraft in the Nigerian sky.
May the souls of fellow Nigerians who transited in this ghastly accident rest in PEACE and may their families have the courage to bear their loss.
We hope this crash will be a turning point for better regulation of the aviation industry and improved air travel safety record in the country.