|* 54 persons escape death
* Jubilation as operation resumes at PH Int’l Airport
* As usual, silence as Dana, NCAA officials nowhere in sight; Some say till Thursday
By Codratus Godson
Dana accident timeline:
The people of Port Harcourt and environs including the south-south and south east regions escaped another period of mass grief after the crashlanding of Dana airplane Tuesday evening at about 7pm, February 20, 2018. This comes 13 years after the region lost many of their brightest youths returning from Layola Jesuit College in Abuja. Some 103 persons died. Only one girl out of the 60 students now called angels, Kechi Okwuchi, made it. A lady, Bunmi Amusan (now Adams), the personal assiatnt to the televangeist, Bimbo Odukoya, managed to survive from the other passengers and crew involved. Both survivors made it after several surgeries around the world.
Before that, the city had been mourning the ADC Flight 86 that took away 144 persons including Claude Ake and many top oil workers as well as government officials at the Ojigbo swamps crash in Lagos in 1996. This made it 247 persons Port Harcourt and the region lost in so short a time. Many families have remained with the scares to this day.
This could be why the Tuesday, February 20, 2018 evening near mishap sent shock waves across the city and region. Some of the persons in the plane were descendants of previous victims. Their mothers would hardly survive another air crash that would have wiped off another generation that sprouted from the perished generation.
Many events the next day were either poorly attended or were held in low keys with murmurs.
How it happened:
A total of 49 passengers and five crew members from Dana Airline were involved in the near tragedy. They however escaped death, what many say could have been the worst air disaster so far 2018 at the Port Harcourt International Airport.
The Sosoliso crash took place the same way the Dana incident began; poor visibility, decision of pilot to try his luck, previous noises in the plane, overshooting the tarmac, etc. the difference this time is that there was no gutter as it was in 2005 that cut the plane into two. This time, the pilot managed to battle with level ground only.
This incident of 2005 took place at about 1pm but the one of 2018 took place at about 7.00pm when the Dana aircraft with registration No. 5N-SRI from Abuja to Port Harcourt over-shot the runway in an attempt to land. There was threat of downpour in 2005 but this time, eye witneses said there was heavy downpour at the airport when the aircraft landed and headed out of the runway.
Witnesses said the Dana aircraft was badly damaged but that there was no loss of life. It was gathered that airport community, the security personnel, and the workers at the airport were of much help in the rescue operation. Many captured the parked airplane by phone and posted to their social media pages.
Sources talked about an international flight from France that had to turn to Lagos to land due to failings at the Port Harcourt International Airport. Relations said their persons had to go to Lagos when they had hovered around PH.
The city was finally spared of any anguish when work resumed the next day. A writer at the airport filed a report thus: Flight operations resumed today, February, 21, 2018, at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, after a ban on the airport was lifted following the crash landing of a Dana airplane No. 5N-SRI from Abuja to Port Harcourt. The near-tragic incident occurred at about 7pm on Tuesday, February 20, 2018.
Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) lifted the temporary ban on airline operations at the airport; by 9am today 21st February 2018, all the airlines resumed their normal flight schedules to Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the Country.
By Wednesday, at about 9am, workers were permitted access into their offices and activities resumed. Flights resumed at after 11 am. This led to wild jubilation as the workers in the airport resumed duties and it was obvious that there was no loss of life in the near air disaster in Port Harcourt Airport.
As at the time of going to the press, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), however, was yet to come up with explanations on the incident to reduce wild rumours that have so far taken over the incident.
The situation was made worse by reports of prominent residents of the Garden City who attempted getting into the city with an international airline from France but allegedly had to go to Lagos to land allegedly due to lack of landing aides and very poor visibility same evening. Some top resource persons expected at major events in the city were reportedly absent on account of the flight that could not land.
This has re-echoed the crisis of status of the Port Harcourt International Airport which has been under rehabilitation for many years but is now in shambles.
There was more excitement today’s afternoon, Wednesday, 21 February 2018, at the airport when another Dana airplane opened the runway by landing safely though with few passengers. When this Dana landed, at about 1pm, there were mixed reactions that greeted this development in reaction to the near tragedy of the previous evening.
Both the workers and several others at the airport stood to gaze at the descending plane up to when it taxied to a stop. There was visible pouring of emotions everywhere.
Following a fatal air crash in 2012 its license was suspended. It was restored in September 2012 by the Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Authority before the inquiry into the accident was concluded. In October 2013, the airline’s license was once again suspended. The airline was audited and resumed flights on 26 January 2014 with a single Boeing 737-500.