By Kenneth Ehigiator
Senator Smart Adeyemi and 51 others,including journalists, This afternoon (FRiday) escaped death at the Port Harcourt International Airport when the Nigerian Air Force aircraft they were travelling in veered off the runway and smashed into trees.
Vanguard gather that the aircraft was on a mock search and rescue mission from Abuja to Port Harcourt when the incident occurred.
Although no life was lost, it was learnt that at least four persons suffered serious injuries and are receiving treatment in an hospital in Port Harcourt.
Sources told Vanguard Friday that the aircraft was also badly damaged and may cost the Air Force much money to repair.
The aircraft was said to had landed safely on the runway, but suddenly veered off the runway after the pilot lost control, and therefater ran into trees and other obstacles at the airport.
The mock search and rescue was reportedly organised by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to test the country’s preparedness for search and recsue during emergencies, especially those relating to plane crashes.
On board the aircraft were also some persons who the agency pencilled down as casualties in the mock exercise, but most of who survived the real crash that took place at the airport.
Vanguard gathered that some of the journalists on board the aircraft also suffered some minor injuries and were treated at aÂ hospitals in Port Harcourt.
Although the incident involved a military aircraft, the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, confirmed the incident to Vanguard on phone yesterday, but stressed that “there were no casualties.”
Senator Adeyemi was said top have expressed dismay at the inadequacies of fire cover at the airport, as he feared that the the situation would have become a tragedy had the aircraft caught fire.
He was said to have expressed disgust that the airport had less than 100 fire men instead of the 250 required at the airport, and was quoted to have vowed to take the matter to the floor of the senate to alert it of the near absence of search and rescue capabilities in the country.
At press time, the airport was said to have been closed to make way for evacuation of the aircraft, said to be badly damaged.