Cause of Nigerian crash remains unclear

2012-06-04 14:13

Lagos - Emergency workers in Nigeria fought fires and searched for corpses through the night in a neighbourhood that an aging American-built airliner ploughed into, killing all 153 on board. Rescue officials said on Monday they fear many people may have perished on the ground too.

A Nigeria Red Cross report said that 48 bodies had been recovered so far, with more being dug out from the rubble.

The pilots reported engine trouble before the crash. Two years ago, the same Boeing MD-83 had loss of engine power due to a bird strike, according to an aviation database.

On a clear Sunday afternoon, the Dana Air jetliner crashed into businesses and crowded apartment buildings near Lagos' Murtala Muhammed International Airport, the worst air disaster in Nigeria in nearly two decades.

"The fear is that since it happened in a residential area, there may have been many people killed," said Yushau Shuaib, a spokesperson for Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency.

The cause of the crash remained unclear. The pilots radioed to the Lagos control tower just before the crash, reporting engine trouble, a military official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to journalists. Rescue workers searched for the aircraft's black box recorders where flight data is stored, said Harold Demuren, the director-general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

Demuren said the Nigerian registration number of the plane was 5NRAM. Aviation databases show the plane was exported to Nigeria in early 2009. It was first delivered in 1990 with the US registration number N944AS to Alaska Airlines and it suffered two minor incidents while in the Seattle-based airline's service, according to databases of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Aviation Safety Network.

On 02 November 2002, the plane made an emergency diversion due to smoke and electrical smell in the cabin, and on 20 August 2006, the plane was evacuated after landing at Long Beach, California because of smoke in the passenger cabin.

Loss of engine power

Boeing said in a statement on its website that the company is ready to provide technical assistance to the Civil Aviation Authority on Nigeria through the US National Transportation Safety Board.

Bobbie Egan, spokesperson for Alaska Airlines, said she had no information on the aircraft that may have been used several years ago by the airline and referred calls to Alaska's corporate communications office, which was not yet open.

On 19 April 2010, the plane made an emergency landing at Lagos due to loss of engine power after a bird strike following takeoff, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

The aircraft appeared to have come down on Sunday on its belly onto the dense neighbourhood that sits along the typical approach path taken by aircraft heading into Lagos' Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

 The plane tore through roofs, sheared a mango tree and rammed into a woodworking studio, a printing press and at least two apartment buildings before stopping. The plane was heading to Lagos from Abuja, the capital, when it went down.

A white, noxious cloud rose from the crash site that burned onlookers' eye. Pieces of the plane were scattered around the muddy ground.

While local residents helped carry fire hoses to the crash site, the major challenges of life in oil-rich Nigeria quickly became apparent as there wasn't any water to put out the flames more than three hours later.

  • Jack - 2012-06-04 19:56

    No water to put off the fire for a period of three hours. Unacceptable governance.

  • victor.ejike.5 - 2012-06-04 21:44

    There was actually water i don't know were sapa got that report from and live i in lagos and according to reports here the major problem was getting to ground zero on time due to a major challenge crowd control

  • - 2012-06-05 11:23

    This is really sad, and could have been avoided reading this story they clearly state that this aircraft/plane had problem from way back, why did they just throw it or sort out the problem. And now no one is willing to take responsibility for the accident. This is unacceptable period

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