The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday announced that it is suspending Dana Airlines operations pending the conclusion of its investigation into the disastrous air crash in Iju Ishaga in Lagos.
According to reports, the Senate further directed the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Dr. Harold Demuren, to step aside until all investigations into the crash are completed.
Dana Air’s Flight 992 slammed into a two-story residential building in the densely populated neighborhood on Sunday after at about 4 p.m.
Reports revealed that the pilot of the Lagos-bound flight, an American man by the name of Peter Waxtan, had sent distress signals to the Lagos control tower at 3:43 p.m., minutes before impact.
Demuren said the pilot had “declared Mayday” because both engines on Dana’s McDonnell Douglas MD83 aircraft failed before the crash.
Residents who witnessed the tragic incident said an explosion occurred some 10 minutes after the plane’s deadly landing just 11 miles north of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos.
“The wall of the building, the plane pushed the wall of our building in, and it hit everything,” said Kingsley Okeke, who was inside. “There was fire everywhere.”
Sunday’s deadly air disaster, which claimed the lives of all 153 passengers aboard the ill-fated flight and 10 more on the ground, is one of the worst in the region and has renewed concerns about aviation safety in Nigeria and other parts of the emerging continent.
Emergency officials, by midday Tuesday, said they have recovered 153 bodies from the debris and wreckage of the crash site, including the body of a woman clutching a baby. The bodies were deposited at the morgue of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), where family members gathered today to help identify the lifeless bodies of their loved ones.
Nigeria’s Federal Government has vowed full investigation into the crash. The Senate is also looking into Friday’s accident in Ghana, involving Nigeria’s Allied Air, that left 10 dead.
The Senate Committee on Aviation said the latest crash was an indication of negligence of regulatory function in the aviation industry.
A wake up call
Senator Hope Uzodinma (PDP-Imo) said the crash was “even more tragic than previous ones with a total casualty figure of about 190 people, including 153 passengers, six crew members and about 37 people on the ground.
“This crash is a wake-up call for all relevant authorities to rise to the challenge of ensuring that no effort is spared in making the nation’s aviation industry conform with international safety standards,” he said.
In an interview with Voice of America, William Voss, the head of the U.S.-based Flight Safety Foundation, said there is a “tendency” in many African countries not to have strong implementation of aviation standards.
He said Nigeria, after experiencing a string of air tragedies in 2005 and 2006, “actually enjoyed a spectacular safety record over the past six years until just this past weekend”.
Senate President David Mark at the meeting today blamed the crash on the negligence of appropriate authorities.
“The lesson in this disaster is for us to ensure that this does not happen again.
“We must learn to deal with early warning signals in our national life, even if they are false alarm, and begin to deal with them immediately before things turn into disaster,” he added.
The Senate called for a review of aviation policies and the upgrade of search and rescue operations, bring them up to international standards.
Sen. Helen Esuene (PDP- Akwa Ibom), speaking at the session today, also called for the establishing of “standard aircraft maintenance units in Nigeria to service aircrafts in the country”
The Senate President said the recommendations will be implemented by the executive arm of government.
He also added that punishments will be doled out following investigation findings, saying there has been “too much forgiveness” in the past.
“People just commit offences and get away with it and I think this is one offence too many and all those involved must be brought to book,” Mark said.
The Senate directed its committee on aviation to join forces with its House of Representatives counterparts in thoroughly investigating the crash.
The committee will also sit jointly with operating airlines in the country.