A resident of Basa village near the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Vivian Ude, has narrated how the Nigerian air force aircraft hovered around their community before it crashed.
The Beechcraft KingAir B350i crashed on Sunday killing all seven personnel on board.
Ude told TheCable that she was gripped by fear thinking the plane would land in her compound.
“I am not myself because of what I experienced today,” she said.
“When I came back from church, I went out to buy something only for me to come outside and I saw the plane coming close as if it wanted to land in our compound.
“The pilot was struggling with the plane as though he wanted to land but the plane would go up again. The plane did not get to the place where they always land before touching the ground.
“I saw the plane going down but at a point, I could not see it again and the next thing I heard was a loud sound with fire and smoke.
“I was so traumatized because I saw humans burning. I could not eat my lunch because of fear.”
Joseph ThankGod, a 13-year-old resident of the village who was among the first responders, told journalists that he thought the plane was performing aerial display which is normally carried out by the Nigerian airforce.
He said the fire service could not locate the road leading to the crash scene on time.
“We thought they are doing their usual aerial display with the plane but the plane fell down,” he said.
“I went to meet my friends where they were molding blocks and we tried to use water to quench the fire but the plane exploded and we had to move back. This was when we realised that it would be difficult to quench the fire.
“The fire service couldn’t locate the road to get to the scene of the crash and when they arrived they finally put out the fire and the officers chased us away and seized the mobile phones of those filming.”
Several social media users have commended the deceased pilot for steering the aircraft away from the village.
Casualty figure would have been more
Another resident, who simply identified himself as Gboyega, said he saw the aircraft struggling to land but it eventually crashed and burst into flames.
Gboyega applauded the pilot of the aircraft, as he stated that the pilot averted what would have turned out to be “a greater casualty figure.”
He said, “The pilot tried not to crash the plane on buildings because it was almost falling on some structures before it eventually dropped where there was no building.
“It burst into flames after crashing and people in their respective homes around the area ran out in fear.
“If not for the pilot’s efforts, we would have seen a greater casualty figure.”
Bodies were burnt beyond recognition – Toyheeb
Another resident of the area, Sunkonmi Toyheeb, said he was working in a building in the community when the aircraft crashed.
“We were among the first set of people who rushed to the accident scene because I was working in a building close to the areas where the aircraft fell.
“The fire service men tried, well may be because this place is close to the airport. But before they could put out the fire, the people inside the plane have been burnt beyond recognition.”
Responders couldn’t save victims – Nnaemeka
Another eyewitness, Ruth Nnaemeka, said the sight of the crash had continued to make her shiver.
She noted that although responders from the airport rushed to the scene in good time, they could not save the occupants of the aircraft from being burnt.
She said, “I saw the plane before it crashed. At first, it hovered as if it wanted to land and before you know what was happening, it moved up again into the sky.
“It then kept swinging from one side to the other. In fact, the sight was terrible. It tried moving towards the airport where other airplanes use to land.
“From afar, I saw it going down and at a point it disappeared and the next thing that followed was a bang which led to the eruption of fire and thick smoke.
“And I was like, ‘Oh God, these are humans burning in this fire.’ The situation got me scared and worried and I couldn’t eat after seeing what happened to that plane this morning.
“Fire service men and ambulances rushed down as early as they could because this place is close to the airport, but they could not save the passengers from being burnt because the explosion was huge.”
Officials of the Ministry of Aviation said the NAF jet crashed after it had reported an engine failure at about 10.39am.
They said firefighters from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and the National Emergency Management Agency were among first responders to the crash site.
“A Nigerian Air Force NAF201 B350 aircraft departed Abuja at 1033UTC with six persons on board including two crew,” the Director, Public Affairs, FMA, James Oduadu, stated in a brief update about the accident.
He added, “Aircraft reported engine failure at time 1039 and crash landed on the final approach path of Abuja Runway 22 at time 1048UTC.
“Fire services are already at the scene of the accident. All six persons on board reported dead.”
The incident was also confirmed by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who identified the aircraft as King Air 350.
He said via his official Twitter handle that “A military aircraft King Air 350 has just crashed short of our Abuja runway after reporting engine failure enroute Minna.
“It appears to be fatal. We should remain calm and wait for the outcome of investigation by the military, while we pray for the departed soul souls.”
The General Manager, Public Affairs, FAAN, Henrietta Yakubu, told one of our correspondents that the authority had to respond by sending its fire fighters to the accident scene.
She, however, stated that the accident would be investigated and further updates provided by the NAF as the aircraft involved was not a commercial jet.
Also, the spokesperson, Accident Investigation Bureau, Tunji Oketunbi, said the accident involved a military aircraft and the AIB would not investigate such situation based on its mandates.
He, however, noted that the AIB would only investigate the matter when called upon by the military to be involved in the investigations.
We recovered seven bodies from plane crash site – FERMA
The Federal Capital Territory Emergency Management Agency said it recovered seven bodies from the crash site.
The FERMA Director-General, Alhaji Abass Idriss, said the remains of the aircraft passengers had been deposited at the Nigeria Air Force morgue.
Speaking to the press on the phone on Sunday, Idriss denied reports that some persons were killed on the ground by the aircraft, noting that only the seven passengers on the plane died.
He said, ‘’We recovered seven bodies from the crash site and the remains have been taken to the NAF morgue. The NAF has the manifest and they know all those on board. The plane did not crash into any building or individuals on the ground, so all the people on board have been accounted for.’’
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