But for an unexpected phone call from his partner, Paul Apel, a filmmaker, would have perished along with the other victims of the Dana flight, which crashed on Sunday killing all the passengers on board.
A visibly shocked Apel, had concluded his business deal in Abuja and was on his way to the Abuja Airport to board the ill-fated flight to Lagos. But along the way, something happened: he had call from his business partner in Lome, Togo, to return to the Abuja office for an emergency assignment. Apel did not like the development, which effectively delayed him for an hour, but he proceeded reluctantly back to the Abuja office for the assignment.
On completion of what took him back to the office, he quickly boarded a taxi to the airport to board the Dana flight but again, the cab was unduly delayed by another. The car was blocked by another one and they could not immediately get the driver to remove the car for them to move at once to the airport.
Angered by the delay, Apel did his best to catch up with the flight but still missed it. By the time he arrived the airport, the ill-fated plane was taxing off and he had to wait for another flight to Lagos the following day..
“I was supposed to be on the flight but suddenly I received a call from one of my partners to edit something for him. That forced me to turn back to Abuja. I never knew that the call was divinely planned even though I was initially angry when it came.”
“I have no choice than to go to church to thank the Lord for protecting my life and to draw closer to Him,” Apel said.
Interviews by Paul Dada, Samuel Abulude, Ben Ndubuwa, Lagos, and David-Chyddy Eleke, Awka.
I ESCAPED BY THE WHISKER – Emmanuel Soyemi
“I really thank God for sparing me from the Sunday tragedy. I came back from church with my family at about 2 pm. I sent my son to get me a recharge card. But as he was stepping out, they restored power and I called him back to iron his uniform. When my son returned to the house, I stepped out to pick something from my car.
Just as I made to leave the house, I just saw the plane falling off. First, it hit a mango tree and cut it into two before landing on the next building to ours. But one of the wings dropped right here in my compound, forcing many people to run in different directions.
“I initially thought it was a heavy rain until I saw the tree. I just thank God for my life. Two years ago I lost my wife who left me with five children. That was June 2010. Now this is June 2012 and this happened. It could have killed my son if I had not called him back,” he said.
WE’RE LEFT WITH NOTHING EXCEPT THE CLOTHES WE WORE TO CHURCH – Pastor Daniel Omowunmi
I am the owner of the building where the plane crashed into directly. In the compound I had a six-bedroom duplex with a pent house. There were two warehouses in the compound and another 6-bedroom bungalow with two big sitting rooms and a kitchen. I had four fish ponds each of them measuring about 13 feet by 10.
I had in the warehouse some educational materials-books printed abroad-and shipped into this country in six containers. I had about four containers of cooking utensils and a Sports Utility Vehicle. I kept some cash. My loss in the unfortunate incident runs into millions of Naira.
I was in church when I received a phone call that a plane had rammed into my compound and when I came back I realised that the damage was beyond my control. I thank God that nobody in my family was a casualty. I went to the church with family- my wife, my three children, my aged mother, two young girls living with us and the house help. The only thing left for me and my families are the things we went to church with.
WE TRIED TO RESCUE VICTIMS BUT THE FIRE FROM THE PLANE WAS TOO MUCH – Meshach Oroye, IjuIshaga resident
I was sleeping when I heard the first explosion; I did not bother to get up because I thought the armed robbers who robbed the area last night were back.
I only got up to check when people were making noise only to behold the goriest sight I have ever witnessed in my life. The front of the plane was buried inside what used to be a palatial residential building while the rear was scattered everywhere.
The fire was so much that we had to shelve plans to rescue people and looked at how to quench the flames. The plane was sighted at about 3.30pm swerving and making dangerous manoeuvres before it crash landed on the residential buildings, killing both the passengers aboard the flight and the residents of four different houses.
Human beings were burnt as if they were carcasses of animals. It was something else. We were still lamenting on the loss of the lives of people that were in the plane when it suddenly dawned on us that we were victims too.
It was then people started looking for their loved ones; mothers were crying for their children and vice versa. People are still in search of loved ones and neighbours that lived in the crashed building. We really tried to rescue but the fire was too much.”
I RAN OUT OF MY HOUSE WITH BOXER SHORTS – Olakunle Lawal
When I first heard the sound I thought that a building had collapsed. My friend just said we should go the scene and find out what was happening. We were confused and unable to determine whether it was fire or a collapsed building.
But before long, the flame had started roasting everything on sight. It was then that it dawned on us that the plane had crashed and trapped our neighbours who were in the storey building. Our pastor’s house was also affected. So I ran out with my boxers. I even fell into a gutter three times because I could not see clearly.
Pastor held me as we were running because of the fear that the fire might consume the whole community. We really feel sorry for our neighbours who died in the buildings.
AJUONUMA CALLED HIS WIFE BEFORE TAKE-OFF – Uncle
An uncle to the late NNPC spokesperson, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma, Mr. Mike Ajuonuma said that Levi called his wife that he was on his way to Lagos after boarding the plane that crashed.
Mike revealed that barely one and a half hours after Levi’s call to his wife that he was on his way to Lagos, the wife became worried and decided to call the late NNPC spokesman back but she could not get through: his phones were reportedly not available. The wife went mad and decided to call the Abuja office and the driver who was waiting for him at the Lagos airport.
First, the driver in Abuja confirmed to her that ‘oga’ had boarded Dana airline and would soon be in Lagos.
But as soon as that driver dropped the line, Mrs. Levi got the sad news of her life: Dana flight from Abuja with all the passengers had crashed.
Before long callers started bombarding her with calls, trying to find out whether her husband was on the flight or not.
I’M BIGGEST LOSER OF AYENE’S DEATH – Cripple
The crash of a Dana Airplane last Sunday has kept Ndiowu Community of Orumba North in Anambra State in perpetual mourning, following the loss of Barr Onyeka Anyene, his four children, mother-inlaw and house help to the crash.
LEADERSHIP WEEKEND’s visit to the community yesterday was met with a picture of grief painted on the faces of everyone, as even children who confessed to not having set eyes on the Lagos-based lawyer before were also in grief.
Even La Tierra Santa, the late Barr Anyene’s country home in Ubaha, Ndiowu which depicted the comfort which the family had lived wore a gloomy look as only a trained Alsatian dog which seemed to know the condition around sprang up through fence to attack our reporter on reaching the gate.
Members of the community who spoke with LEADERSHIP lamented the death of Anyene and his family, pointing out that over 102 students of both primary, secondary and tertiary institutions were being trained by him.
A shop owner and neighbour to the family, Mrs Edna Ndukwe said, “Since the news came in on Monday, we have been mourning. He is that kind of a man that will do anything for you. He rarely comes home, but when ever he is around every one knows because he always has a gift for every one.”
A bedridden cousin of the deceased lawyer, OsitaAnyene who claimed that Anyene had been responsible for his upkeep and that of his family since he was crippled by accident 13 years ago told LEADERSHIP that though he is the greatest loser, the entire community has been in mourning.
He noted that their brother’s body and that of his family members have been identified, but lamented that the body can not arrive home as earlier planned because the Lagos State government insists on carrying out an autopsy on the body.
Osita called on government officials to sit up and shun bribery if the incident would not repeat itself. He stated that the carelessness of the aviation officials in detecting the unworthy state of the aircraft has deemed hope for over 102 persons who Anyene has been diligently training in schools.
I SEE MY MOTHER’S DEATH AS BEING DESTINED — Amina Shuaibu
Amina Shuaibu, is the first daughter of late Mrs Memuna Shuaibu, who until her death in the ill-fated Dana airline that crashed last week Sunday, was the deputy director, Open and Distant Learning, National Universities Commission (NUC), Abuja.
She recounts her last moment with her mother whom she said seem to have a premonition of her death, amidst tears and sobs. Unlike her previous trips in which she calls on her relatives to help prepare her luggage, she started preparing for this last one four days earlier and by herself.
She said: “I was lying down in my room that day when my younger sister called that mummy has not called and that she heard there was a plane crash. Immediately, I switched on the television and saw the news on Dana Air crash and that was it. While at the airport, she called me and I asked which of the airline she was going to board and she told me Dana.
“My last moment with her was on Saturday morning. I came from Port Harcourt on Wednesday because I was ill and need to travel to Lokoja on Saturday. But my husband’s car was bad, so I called to inform her of the need to use one of her cars. She asked how I would take delivery of the car and I informed her I was going to send somebody. But she asked if I was not aware that she would be travelling on Sunday, does it mean she won’t see her child before she travels?
‘’After a while, she called again and insisted I must come to the house, so on Saturday I came here to see her and she gave me the dowry paid by my husband.
I see my mother’s death as being destined. My mother showed so many signs and we did not understand it.
Before now, she stopped sleeping on her bed and started sleeping on the floor, saying it was more comfortable.
My sister said mum kept going round the whole room, staring at every object. Usually, we prepare her things before she travels, but this time, she prepared everything by herself even four days to the journey, she lamented.
MY DAD WAS IN HIGH SPIRITS THAT SUNDAY – Onwuliri’s First son
Ken Onwuliri, the first son of late Professor Celestine Onwuliri, former Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology (FUTO) and husband to Professor Viola Onwuliri, minister of state, Foreign Affairs shared his father’s last moment with us.
He said: “We all went to the church that morning and had lunch together. We made a couple of jokes before we took him to the airport to catch his flight to Lagos as he was to attend an NUC assignment. We were there when he checked in.
“We actually got the information from an on-line chatter. We called his line that was going through before we confirmed the crash.
‘’It was a sad day for the family because my father was a good man – a good catholic. He was the leader of knight of St. John international in Nigeria. He was a philanthropist, charitable worker, whose interest is in helping people. We will miss him.”