By Taye Obateru
The peace of Kabong, a hilly but densely populated settlement off Rukuba Road in Jos, the Plateau State capital, was disrupted on Wednesday when a police helicopter crashed into the area killing a deputy inspector general of police and three others.
Knowing how populated the area is, many on hearing of the crash, had feared that the casualty figure would be high. But by some divine arrangement, the occupants of the three houses into which the helicopter crashed were out at the time of the incident.
Known for its army of unemployed youths, Kabong has become one of the fastest growing parts of Jos following the movement of people from one part to another in the wake of the recurring crises in the city. It is an area that would ordinarily not attract important personalities because most of the occupants are of the middle or low economic strata of society.
But on this fateful day, it became a cynosure which attracted the high and mighty. Many important personalities meandered through the narrow and windy roads to get to the crash site.
Narrating how the crash occurred, a resident, Mrs Dinatu Garba said: “We have become used to seeing helicopters go around the town since the crises started, so seeing a helicopter over our heads is nothing new.
“We have also been noticing this same helicopter going round for some days, so it was nothing unusual. But on that particular morning, something was just not right with this helicopter. It was making an unusual noise that drew the attention of people. Many came out and were looking into the sky to see what was happening.
”Some of the people were still asking questions about what could be wrong with the helicopter when we saw it coming unusually low and suddenly, we saw it crashing down into some buildings. We all ran down there and thankfully, there were no people in the houses.
“I think it was only a young girl of about nine years old that was injured and she was rushed to a hospital. Only a pig was killed on the ground.
“The helicopter was on fire and the youth mobilized and were fetching water to put it out. Some others brought axes and cutlasses to cut through the remains to see if anyone could be rescued. But by the time the bodies were brought out, they had been burnt beyond recognition. I had to run away because I could not stand the sight and I only came back after I regained myself.”
As it turned out, there was not much to do in terms of emergency aid other than to evacuate the remains of the four occupants of the helicopter and the damaged helicopter. A combined effort of the police and the army did this but not without some altercation with youths in the area.
Some of the youths did not take kindly to how they were pushed, shoved and almost ordered out of the area by the security personnel who were on rescue efforts, a move they resisted.
The security personnel who were apparently bothered by the danger posed by the crowd surging to the crash scene had demanded that people move out to allow them do their work undisturbed.
This resulted in a hot exchange between some of the the youths and the security men and but for the intervention of some top officers and community leaders who pacified both sides, another ugly incident might have been recorded.
“We were the ones who started the rescue efforts before they came and now they came, they want to chase us away. This is unfair”, one of the youths told journalists.
Meanwhile, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State has expressed grief over the death of DIG Haruna John and three others who died in the helicopter crash on Wednesday.
The governor in a statement signed by the Director of Press and Public Affairs in his office, Mr. James Mannok described Haruna as “an officer with high professional conduct and has earned his steady rise in a career he remains proud of.”
He recalled his last meeting with him on Monday in his (Jang’s) office adding, “his commitment to peace and security will remain indelible.” He described the deaths as a colossal loss to the country and Plateau State where the late pilot of the helicopter hails from.