From the Punch
December 10 may just be another day for millions of Nigerian, but for some it symbolises sorrow and tears, a day that left scars.
The reason? On December 10, 2005, a DC-9 plane operated by Sosoliso Airlines crash-landed in Port Harcourt resulting in the death of 108 of the 110 people aboard the plane.
According to reports, many of the victims survived the crash, but died in the resulting fire due to poor emergency services at the airport.
The fact that sixty-one secondary school pupils from Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja were aboard the flight made the crash more tragic and left the nation shell-shocked.
The pastor of Fountain of Life Church and relationship coach, Bimbo Odukoya, also died in the crash.
Ten years after, while the nation’s memory of the tragedy appeared to have been dulled, relatives and family members of the victims have come out to remember and honour them.
A former member of the House of Representatives, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, whose son was in the school at the time, tweeted, “We remember all victims of the Sosoliso crash, 10 years ago. Our 60 angels of Loyola Jesuit College will not die in vain.”
Many other people have also tweeted in honour of the victims. Some of the tweets, however, point out that not much has changed since the crash.
“10 years since Sosoliso. The problem is the Nigerian State. It is designed to be dysfunctional,” a user, Onye Nkuzi, tweeted via the handle @cchukudebelu.
In 2010, during the launch of a book, written in honour of the pupils lost by LJC, the Chaplain of the school, Fr. Ubong Attai, was quoted as saying, “Although things have not changed much, there was a bold step by the President then, Olusegun Obasanjo, after the crash, to sanitise the avaiation sector.”
Earlier this year, five years after Attai’s comments, the Port Harcourt International Airport where the crash occurred, was voted the worst airport in the world by over 26,000 travellers who were surveyed by the Guide to Sleeping in Airports.
As victims of the Sosoliso crash are remembered, here are the five worst air disasters in Nigeria.
5. Bellview Airlines crash – October 22, 2005
A total of 117 people, comprising 111 passengers and six crew members were killed when a Boeing 737-200 plane owned by Bellview Airlines crashed at Lisa, a village in Ogun State.
The plane, which was heading to Abuja, crashed shortly after taking off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
Although emergency authorities were notified on October 22 that the airport had lost contact with the plane, it wasn’t until the next day that its wreckage was discovered. There were no survivors.
4. ADC Airlines Flight 86 – November 7, 1996
In November 1996, an Aviation Development Company aircraft – Flight 86, which was enroute to Lagos from Port Harcourt, crashed, killing all 144 passengers and crew members on board.
The pilot lost control of the plane while trying to avoid a collision with another aircraft. An air traffic controller was responsible for the error that almost resulted in the mid-air collision.
3. NAF Lockheed crash – September 26, 1992
No fewer than 158 people, mostly military officers, were killed when a Nigerian Air Force Lockheed C-130H Hercules crashed in Lagos soon after take-off.
The aircraft, which was enroute to Kaduna, crashed into the canal at Ejigbo in Lagos shortly after taking off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport.
The military officers killed in the crash were on their way to attend a course at the Nigerian Command and Staff College at Jaji in Kaduna State.
2. Dana Air Flight 992 – June 3, 2012
In all, 163 people lost their lives in this crash which occurred on a Sunday afternoon at Iju-Ishaga, a suburb of Lagos.
The aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas MD-83, crashed into a building after the crew reported engine trouble, killing all 147 passengers and six crew members as well as 10 people on the ground.
The plane had burst into flames after crashing into the building, but efforts to put out the fire was hindered by shortage of water as well as the huge crowd at the scene.
1. 1973 Kano air disaster
Nigeria’s worst air disaster claimed the lives 176 people, mostly pilgrims. On January 1973, a chartered Boeing 707 crashed while attempting to land at the Aminu Kano International Airport.
The flight, operated by Alia, had been chartered to fly pilgrims back to Nigeria from Saudi Arabi. Twenty-six people survived the crash.
The Sosoliso crash was Nigeria’s 6th worst air disaster in terms of fatalities.