7 dead as military airplane crashes in Abuja, black box, others recovered

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A Nigerian Air Force Intelligence Reconnaissance aircraft – a King Air B350 plane, on Sunday crash-landed shortly after the perimeter fence of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja at 10:48 am killing all seven persons on board.

The pilot who was en route Minna, Niger State had complained of engine failure barely moments after taking off and was advised to return to Abuja before the aircraft crash and exploded on impact, triggering a ball of flames.

According to an eyewitness, the aircraft struggled for balance and began descending dangerously until it hit a mango tree close to a stream behind Bassa village close to the airport. The black box and cockpit recorder of Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Beachcraft airplane have been recovered and evacuated.

Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola said the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao, had instituted an investigative panel to determine the remote and immediate causes of the accident.

He noted that NAF had notified the Next of kins/family members of the deceased, and gave their names as: Flight Lieutenant Haruna Gadzama (Captain) Flight Lieutenant Henry Piyo (Co-Pilot), Flying Officer Michael Okpara (Airborne Tactical Observation System (ATOS) Specialist), Warrant Officer Bassey Etim (ATOS Specialist), Flight Sergeant Olasunkanmi Olawunmi (ATOS Specialist).

Others are Sergeant Ugochukwu Oluka (ATOS Specialist), Aircraftman Adewale Johnson (Onboard Technician). A military source had earlier confirmed the crash, saying: “The Nigerian Air Force NAF201 aircraft departed Abuja at 10.33UTC.

Pilots

Lamenting the tragedy, President Muhammadu Buhari said he remained committed to the safety of the Nigerian airspace.

“Deeply saddened by the fatal crash of the @NigAirForce KingAir B350i aircraft today in Abuja that claimed the lives of seven personnel. On behalf of the Federal Government, I extend heartfelt condolences to family members, friends and colleagues of those who died.

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“I join the Nigerian Air Force, the military & all Nigerians in mourning the unfortunate loss of our dedicated & courageous personnel, who died in the line of duty. I pray that God will comfort the bereaved families & the nation, and grant the souls of the departed peaceful rest”. He said.

Confirming the crash, Minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika, tweeted on Sunday that the aircraft reported engine failure en route Minna, Niger State capital.

He said: “A military aircraft King Air 350 has just crashed short of our Abuja runway after reporting engine failure en route 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 if any.”