Escape In Ill-Fated Aircraft
-Hometown Was Warned of Impending Tragedy
-Gbenga Obasanjo’s Narrow Escape
-Mystery of Past Ondo Governors Death
Son of the late former governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Agagu, Feyi was one of the few survivors of the ill-fated aircraft, an Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia turboprop series belonging to Associate Airlines conveying the late politician’s corpse to Akure, Ondo State last week Thursday for burial.
Save for providence, Feyi would have gone to the world beyond to join his father as not less than 13 people including the Commissioner for Commerce and Tourism in Ondo State, Deji Falae died in the incident.
Those, who were privileged to be amongst the people waiting to receive the remains of the late former governor in Ondo State with the state Governor, Olusegun Mimiko and Agagu’s wife, Olufunke told us that the news of the plane crash naturally devastated everyone one around and that the former Ondo first lady wept uncontrollably as she thought her son had died in the crash.
“But, when they were told later that Feyi survived the crash, everyone jumped for joy as if nobody died in the incident, the whole place became electrified as they all sang songs of praises and gave thanks to God for not allowing the family to suffer double loss,’ said a source.
They were said to have openly thanked God, who did not take away the young man at a time his late father had not been buried and when his mother was yet to come to terms with the death of her husband of many years.
It was reported that Feyi Agagu survived the crash with relatively minor injury and is recuperating at the hospital.
Shortly after the crash, one of the people many thought were in the ill fated crash was the first son of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, Gbenga. Upon receiving the news at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta, where he was attending an event, former president Obasanjo was said to have shouted; “Which Gbenga, no he is not in Lagos, he is in Abuja.”
Those who should know claimed that Gbenga Obasanjo was actually scheduled to be in the aircraft. He was said to have been part of whole arrangement, but that he was delayed in Abuja, where he had gone for another engagement, which was why he missed the flight. He had reportedly sent words to the family that he would join them in Akure for the burial as he could not meet up with them in Lagos.
“So, he is just lucky to have escaped the incident, that was why many people mentioned his name after the crash as it was assumed that he was part of the entourage that went with the corpse from Lagos,” said an informant.
First Weekly was also privileged to another angle to the story last week as we were informed that the people of Iju-Odo, Agagu’s hometown were warned of an impending doom after the late politician’s death.
A member of the Agagu family, High Chief Sehindemi Oguntoye reportedly said that the community had a premonition that a tragedy would occur before the burial of the former governor, so the family held a prayer session after it was warned of an impending tragedy before the burial.
He said: “The community had been informed of an impending tragedy and the community had held a vigil to avert it. It was a big tragedy for Iju-Odo community.
“We had before the death of Dr. Agagu lost our traditional ruler, and now a plane crash, which involved our loved ones.”
He however urged the community to be fervent in prayers to prevent further tragedies.
The residents of the community were in a pensive mood with many of them gathering in front of their houses discussing the incident shortly after the incident.
Thirteen persons were confirmed dead Thursday when an Associated Airlines plane bearing the remains of former governor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, to Akure for funeral rites, crashed within the vicinity of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, shortly after take-off.
Seven other passengers on board the plane that burst into flames after crashing, including Agagu’s only son, Feyi, were rescued and taken to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, and the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) 445 Medical Reference Hospital, Lagos, for treatment.
One mystery that has continued to baffle many is the fact that Ondo State incumbent Governors always bury their predecessors; Adebayo Adefarati buried Adekunle Ajasin, Olusegun Agagu buried Adefarati, while Governor Olusegun Mimiko buried Olusegun Agagu. Moreso, Agagu buried Adefarati on his birthday, and Agagu died on Mimiko’s birthday.
The casket, in which Agagu’s remains were encased, was also recovered and later taken away in a NAF ambulance with registration number AF054E1 to the office of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB).
The plane had on board 13 passengers, who were part of the funeral party for Agagu, a former Minister of Aviation during the first term of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, and seven flight crew members.
According to the manifest, passengers on the ill-fated plane were Feyi Agagu; state Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Mr. Deji Falae, who is the son of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and presidential candidate in the 1999 general election, Olu Falae; Femi Akinsanya; Akintunde Joseph; Akeem Akintunde; Tunji Okusanya Snr. of MIC Caskets, the funeral undertakers based in Lagos, Chijioke Duru; Kingsley Amaechi, Deji Afolabi, Mrs. A.O. Alabi, Daji Bernard; a protocol officer in the Ondo Government House; Samson Hassan; and Olatunji Okusanya Jr. of MIC Caskets.
The seven flight crew were Captain Yakubu, Flight Officer Oyinlola, Soroh Ebiya, a flight dispatcher identified as Ibrahim, Mr. Felix Latoya, and cabin attendants, Owolabi and Samson.
Although the manifest has not been faulted by concerned authorities, it was gathered that after the pilot of the flight had filed the manifest, which contained 13 passengers and seven crew to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), about seven other passengers boarded the 30-seater aircraft.
NCAA was therefore in a dilemma to declare the names that were not on the manifest, even as it knew that the number of the passengers were more than 20 as declared.
Among the undeclared passengers were prominent personalities who might be declared wanted over time, except the regulatory body and their relatives agree to make their names public.
The accident, which came barely 16 months after a Dana Air Flight J9 092 crashed at the Iju/Ishaga area of the state, killing 153 passengers, created chaos at the airport and a terrible traffic snarl that stretched to several kilometres.
A source alleged that the aircraft, an Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia turboprop series, had not gone for maintenance checks for a long time until Tuesday when it was prepared for the doomed flight.
The airline’s management said in a statement that it was currently cooperating fully with the aviation regulatory authorities with a view to establishing the remote and other causes of the accident.
“Our prayers go out to the affected families of the departed. We pray for their souls to rest in perfect peace while we continue to wish and pray for the speedy and full recovery of the survivors of this grave and sad accident.
“We shall continue to provide information on this accident firstly to the affected families out of respect to them as we receive it. The aircraft was chartered for flight to Akure,” it said.
The presidency yesterday summoned the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, a few minutes before she was about to address the media on the plane crash.
But shortly after her departure to heed the summons, her media aide, Mr. Joe Obi, issued a statement, which the minister was billed to read.
Oduah, in the statement, said: “This morning (yesterday) at 0932 hours, local time, an Embraer 120 aircraft, with registration number 5N-BIT operated by Associated Airlines on a private charter flight from Lagos to Akure, crashed shortly after take-off from the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammad International Airport.
“At departure, the crew of the chartered operation reported 20 persons on board, including crew.
“We can confirm that there were six (later updated to eight by the ministry) survivors on the aircraft and four are in stable condition while two are critical but they are all receiving attention in the hospitals.
“The authorities are contacting families of the victims of this unfortunate incident, and upon completion, will make information about the identities of the victims public.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time.”
The black box, according to her, had been located and was in the custody of the Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau (AIPB), which with the cooperation of NCAA, and other relevant agencies commenced full investigation into the cause of the accident.
“While it is too early to determine the cause of the accident, we urge the public to be patient while the investigation progresses. I assure the public that the investigation will be thorough and that our airspace remains safe and secure,” she added.
Also speaking on the casualties, the General Manager, Federal Airports Authorities of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. Yakubu Dati, said 14 persons had been confirmed dead while five who were severely injured were rushed to the hospital.
AIB Commissioner, Usman Muktar, told reporters that the flight data recorder (black box) had been recovered, adding that it was too early to speculate on the cause of the crash.
Another senior AIB official, Emmanuel Diala, said details of what caused the crash would only be determined after the analysis of the data box
National Emergency Agency (NEMA), South-west Zone spokesman, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, said shortly after the rescue operation was underway that the agency and the state fire service rushed to the scene of the incident immediately the news of the crash broke.
He said: “We got to the scene and combined efforts to put out the fire before other emergency stakeholders joined in. We took the rescued persons to the hospital. In total, we brought out 15 persons, made up of eight dead and seven alive. But one of the initial survivors died on the way to the hospital.
“When we got to the scene, it was easier to rescue the survivors because they were at the rear end of the plane and the fire didn’t get to them much, because the plane broke into two on impact with the ground.
“However, while we were on the way to the hospital, one of the survivors died as a result of shock and possible internal haemorrhage but that is subject to autopsy results.
“The survivors are in a stable condition at the moment as they were not badly burnt. But they cannot talk at the moment because they are traumatised. They are currently in the emergency ward of LASUTH.”
A senior member of staff of Sahara Energy, whose aviation fuel tank farm was within the vicinity where the plane crashed, said the situation could have been worse if they had not reacted immediately by carrying out an emergency fire dousing exercise before the emergency agencies arrived.
He said: “We were working there when we heard a loud bang. We all rushed outside and saw the inferno as we have been drilled several times for such situations, our emergency unit immediately kicked into action.
“We had already started dousing the fire when the emergency services came. We couldn’t rescue anyone because the inferno was considerable and at that point, the focus was to prevent the fire from extending to the tank farms.”
Additional reports by Seyi Olomu
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