Tears, condolences as Rep reveals mission of crashed NAF aircraft

The Nigerian Air Force Sunday said seven persons onboard a Beechcraft KingAir B350 aircraft died when the jet crashed in Abuja.

The jet en route Minna, Niger state, crashed not too far from the runway of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport Abuja, few minutes after take-off, following an engine failure.

Blueprint reliably learnt that the crashed aircraft was on a rescue mission to free the kidnapped students of Government Science College, Kagara, Niger state.

It was further gathered that the tragedy occurred some 100 meters away from Bassa, a village not too far from the airport.

Aboard the ill-fated aircraft were Flt. Lt. Haruna Gadzama, Flt. Lt. Henry Piyo, Flg. Offr. Michael Okpara,    FS Olasukanmi Olawumi, ACM Adewale Johnson, Sgt Ugochukwu Oloka and  Bassey Eti.

An aviation source said the crew alerted the control tower of engine failure at about 10:39am and got crashed some 10 minutes thereafter or thereabout.

But for the thick smoke arising from the deafening explosion that followed the crash, Blueprint gathered that rescue efforts from the locals “would have to some extent, saved the situation.”

In a 17-second video clip trending on the social media, and also obtained by Blueprint, one of our correspondents reports that sympathisers, mostly youth, quickly moved to the sight of the crash to lend a helping hand.

However, as they moved close to the debris of the aircraft, a bang of explosion filled the air, forcing everyone to scamper for safety, and consequently watched from a distance as all the seven occupants aboard got burnt.

There was wailing among the several sympathisers, with one of them overheard lamenting “Jesus Christ, shet, shet, shet shet, it’s bloody.”

The fire-spewing aircraft sent away all from the vicinity as the tone of lamentation kept rising unabated.   

“Our people were there for possible rescue, but the thick smoke arising from the explosion chased them away. Come and see thick smoke. I have never seen such in my life,” said a resident (in his middle age) who refused to give his name to our reporter at the disaster scene.

NAF confirms

Confirming the development in a statement Sunday, NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Vice Marshal  Ibikunle Daramola, said the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Isiaka O Amao, has ordered an immediate probe into the crash.

Daramola said: “This is to confirm that a Nigerian Air Force Beechcraft KingAir B 350 aircraft crashed while returning to the Abuja Airport after reporting engine failure en route Minna. First responders are at the scene. Sadly, all 7 personnel on board died in the crash.

“The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal IO Amao, has ordered an immediate investigation into the incident.

“While urging the general public to remain calm and await the outcome of investigation, the CAS, on behalf of all NAF personnel, commiserates with the families of the deceased.”

And in a tweet, Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika said the aircraft crash-landed after experiencing an engine failure on the way to Minna, Niger state.

 Buhari, Lawan mourn

 Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed sadness over the crash.

In a statement Sunday in Abuja by his media aide, Femi Adesina, the president

extended heartfelt condolences to family members, friends and colleagues of those who died as a result of the tragedy.

He joined the NAF, the military and other Nigerians in mourning the unfortunate loss of the dedicated and courageous personnel who died in the line of duty.

President Buhari said while investigations into the cause of the crash were ongoing, “the safety of the Nigerian airspace remains a key priority of the government.”

He prayed that God would comfort the bereaved families and the nation and grant the souls of the departed peaceful rest.

In another condolence message, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan mourned the tragic passage of the military officers.

Lawan in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Ola Awoniyi, “sends his condolences to the families of those killed in the accident and prayed Allah to  comfort them in this time of grief.

 “He also commiserated with the Nigerian Air Force and charged the authorities to reinforce their safety measures against future occurrence.”

Reps, APC too

Similarly, the House of Representatives Committee on Air Force, led by its chairman, Hon Shehu Koko commiserated with NAF and families of the deceased persons.

The committee chair said he witnessed the incident along with the Chief of Air Staff and promised investigation would begin in earnest to determine the remote cause. 

 Koko, who represents Maiyama/Koko Besse Federal Constituency in Kebbi state, noted that “the committee under the leadership of Femi Gbajabiamila is deeply saddened by this development and will work with the Chief of Air Staff to unravel the remote cause.” 

He said: “We also commiserate with President Muhammadu Buhari, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 “We highly regret the loss of our gallant officers who apparently were on a mission to rescue the kidnapped students of Government Science College in Kagara community in Niger State.”

 He prayed God to comfort the bereaved family and grant the departed souls eternal rest. 

 Also in a statement Sunday, the All Progressives Congress (APC) mourned the tragedy.

Secretary of the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Sen. John J. Akpan Udoedehe, described the incident as unfortunate.

 “The unfortunate and fatal plane crash brings to fore the tireless work, sacrifices and hazards faced by our armed forces and other security services in their daily efforts to keep the country safe. As directed by the Chief of Air Staff, we are confident of a quick and thorough investigation into the plane crash.

 “We extend our condolences to the Nigerian Air Force, particularly the families, loved ones and colleagues of the seven Air Force personnel that lost their lives in Sunday’s plane crash following a reported engine failure. May their souls rest in peace,” the statement said.

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