The OAS helicopter that went down in Oba Rock, situated between Ikonifin in Olaoluwa local government area and Ife-Odan in the Ejigbo local government area of Osun State, on Friday, was carrying the chairman/chief executive of Bacita Sugar Company, Josephine Kuteji, the pilot of the aircraft and a personal assistant to Mrs. Kuteji. The accident may have been caused by bad weather.
When our correspondent visited the scene of the crash, he saw the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Osun State Emergency Management Agency (OSEMA), the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence, the Osun State Youth Empowerment Scheme members (OYES), the Nigeria Police and the Osun State Fire Service working to recover the remains of the CEO of the sugar firm, an expatriate pilot, and the personal assistant to the Late Rev. Kuteji, Mrs. Adedoyin Ogunbanjo.
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY learnt that the charttered helicopter of the OAS Katenko Airline took off from the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos enroute to Ilorin it crashed on the rock at about 9.55am on Friday.
Speaking with journalists at the scene of the incident yesterday, the South-West zonal coordinator of NEMA, Mr. Ishaya Choloko, attributed the crash to poor visibility occasioned by bad weather.
Choloko, who put the crash point at over 2,500ft above sea level, noted that the residents of Ife-Odan said it was difficult to see objects within 100m range even at ground level on the day of the incident as for enveloped the entire rocky region.
The managing director of Osun osema, Mr. Segun Ajayi, disclosed that his agency got wind of the incident at about 6pm on Friday, adding that his men and others commenced a search for the helicopter.
Ajayi added that the search team was able to get to the troubled spot at about 1am yesterday and was able to recover the remains of the deceased in broad daylight.
He noted that the team and the residents of Ikonifin and Ife-Odan assisted in bringing down the remains of the deceased.
The remains of Kuteji and her personal assistant were handed over to their family at about 2pm at the Ife-Odan police station while that of the expatriate was expected to be collected by his firm later in the day.
Osun State governor Raufu Aregbesola had directed that ambulances be made available to covey the corpses; the ambulances were brought by the chairman, caretaker committee of Ejigbo LGA Mr. Abiodun Tiamiyu Adewale.
NEMA has announced the efforts of its officers toward retrieving the bodies of the victims of the crashed helicopter.
In a statement by its head, public relations, Yushau Shuaib, and made available to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, NEMA stated that the incident took the intervention of NEMA operation officers from Lagos and Abuja, who spent more than six hours trying to locate the helicopter after the initial alert sent by nomadic Fulani, hunters, volunteers and the police.
According to the statement, the helicopter had three passengers onboard, including a male pilot and two women.
It added that the delay in locating the helicopter was due to the malfunctioning of the emergency locator transmitter (ELT) beacon which could have sent a distress alert to the mission control centre (MCC) of NEMA for accurate detection of the crash site.
Meanwhile, the director-general of NEMA, Muhammed Sani-Sidi, has sent invited all airline and aircraft operators in Nigeria to an emergency meeting next Thursday in Lagos to discuss the use of 406 MHZ beacon for the purpose of Cospas-Sarsat Alerting system.
He added that the agency found it necessary and urgent to collaborate on the issue and take a clear position on the use of the ELT beacon and that it would be mandatory for any aircraft flying in Nigeria to install it.
Sani-Sidi said, “The Agency, in the light of the seriousness it attaches to safety in the country, called for the emergency meeting to deliberate on the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) mandate on the use of 406 MHZ Beacon.
“The recent crash as well as that of Beech Craft N364 UZ in Kaduna without receipt of any alert on NEMA’s Cospas-Sarsat was a serious threat to the Federal Government’s mandate on aviation and maritime safety in particular and safety generally”.
Also, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has begun investigation into the circumstances that led to the crash of the helicopter.
In a statement signed by the AIB’s head, public affairs, Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, the bureau said, “Investigators from the AIB arrived at the site this morning (Saturday) and have commenced investigations. The public will be updated as investigation continues.”
Oketunbi also said that the remains of the three occupants, the pilot and two women, had been deposited in the morgue at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Teaching Hospital, Osogbo.
In her response to the incident, the minister of aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah, has expressed condolences to the families of the victims of the crash.
The special assistant to the minister on media, Mr. Joe Obi, said in a statement that the news of the crash “came as a rude shock to the minister who, since assumption of office barely one month ago, has been working hard to ensure safety in the country’s airspace.”
Obi added that the minister had ordered an investigation to unravel the cause of the mishap in order to forestall a recurrence