Nigerians started three days of mourning declared by the country’s leader, Goodluck Jonathan, after a passenger plane belonging to Dana Air, as privately-owned Nigerian passenger company crashed into a residential area killing all aboard and some on the ground Sunday. The recovery of bodies and a search for clues to the accident continued Monday and President Jonathan visited the crash site in Nigeria’s commercial hub and saw rescuers working amid the smouldering, ash-covered wreckage of the McDonnell Douglas MD-83.
Jonathan ordered an investigation into how the plane crashed into the iron roof of an apartment block in the residential suburb of Agege. Search teams are understood to have found what they believed to be the plane’s “black box” flight recorder, national emergency services Chief Yushua Shuaibu told Reuters.
Jonathan, who arrived in an armoured convoy with Lagos state governor Babatunde Fashola, got out and walked the last few metres to the crash site on foot in his traditional Nigerian kaftan and skull cap. “This particular incident is a major setback for us as a people … Investigations will have to be done thoroughly to ascertain what was the cause of the crash,” he told reporters.
The airline said on Sunday 147 people had been killed but in a list published overnight there were also six crew members on board, taking the death total to 153. An unknown number of people may have been killed on the ground. An official at the airline who could not be named said the pilot was an American, Captain Peter Waxtan, and the first officer an Indian named Mike Mahendra. “They’re still busy recovering bodies. I believe some people were killed on the land as well as on the plane, though we don’t yet have a precise idea of numbers,” said Tunji Oketunbi, a spokesman for Nigeria’s Accident Investigation Bureau.
Oke Osanyintolu, head of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, told Reuters at the scene that 80 bodies had been pulled out by about 12:30 p.m. (1130 GMT). A crane was helping to clear away some of the debris. “This is really a horrific moment for us here and we sympathise and give condolences to all the victims and families,” said governor Fashola. “(There are no) words to express our pain and grief. It is saddening, it is simply too much.”