By Tony Edike

ENUGU – A quick response by fire service personnel at the Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu, yesterday averted what could have resulted to a major air disaster in Enugu, as an Embraer 120 aircraft with 20 passengers on board caught fire shortly before take-off.

The turbo-prop aircraft, marked 5N-BLN and operated by Capital Airlines, was taxiing for take off at  2:05pm when a thick smoke was noticed from the right wing of the plane.

A witness told Vanguard that the smoke soon filled the entire plane forcing the passengers into a stampede as they all surged towards the exit point to escape from the raging fire.

The pilot, whose identity could not be immediately obtained, succeeded in opening the exit door from where the passengers and the crew members jumped down, with some sustaining minor injuries in the process.

A thick smoke was emitting from the burning aircraft engine on the right wing when fire service personnel at the airport quickly moved their fire tenders to the scene and succeeded in putting out the inferno in a few minutes.
Their quick response prevented the fire from spreading to other parts of the aircraft.

The affected plane was seen parked in front of the VIP lounge of the airport yesterday with the entire body soaked with water, but officials of the airline and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) refused to comment on the incident.

It was learnt that some of the lucky passengers returned to their homes after the incident, while others boarded Arik plane to continue their journey to Abuja few hours after the incident.

The development, however, attracted many sympathizers who made fruitless attempts to view the affected aircraft, but were prevented by airport securitymen.

The security personnel also denied newsmen access to the area, saying they were instructed not to allow people access to the aircraft.

The Airport Manager and the Public Relations Officer could not be reached as they were not present at the airport when the incident occurred.

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