By ABDULWAHAB ABDULAH, ONOZURE DANIA & MICHAEL OLADEPO
LAGOS—The last 15 minutes of the ill-fated Dana Airline plane and its embattled pilot was relayed before a Lagos Coroner, yesterday.
A witness, Mr. Rafiq Arogunjo, an Air Traffic Controller with Nigerian Airspace Management Agency,NAMA, had related to the coroner court details of his discussions with the pilot of the ill-fated plane before it crashed at Iju-Ishaga, Lagos, on June 3, saying he received distress call from the pilot at (14.42 UTC- universal time coordinate)3.42p.m. local time and that three minutes after, the aircraft went off the radar.
At the time of the distress call, he noted, the plane was at 11 NM (nautical miles) to touch down, which made them thought the plane would crash inside the airport.
According to him, immediately he got the distress call, the message was transferred to Aerodrome Controller, to prepare the stage for emergency.
He noted that agencies such as fire services, search and rescue team and other were deployed to the landing field.
He said, while speaking with the pilot the aircraft had dual engine and throttle failure.
He said prior to the distress call, the pilot was given descent to flight level 5000 feet and its arrival was even expected on runway 18L for landing, but that two minutes later, the pilot requested for approach on another runway 18R which was obliged.
Arogunjo said: “At 14.43 UTC (3.43p.m local time, I observed the aircraft on radar with dropping speed and altitude, then at 14.45 (3.45p.m), the aircraft went into coasted status, that is, fading from the scope, and later disappeared.
“I informed tower about this and few seconds later, tower said they could see the aircraft on the extended centre-line of the runway with dark smoke.”
Asked why the radar could not monitor the aircraft up till the time it crashed, he said, “What we have is a terminal approach radar. It will not show the object on the ground. The one that will show objects on the ground is a surveillance radar,” adding “ we have had training on its use but we don’t have it in Nigeria.”
Arogunjo said an Ibadan-bound private helicopter volunteered to move to the crash site for observation and assistance, adding “although the location of the crash was not in doubt, we had the coordinates and we had passed it to other parties.”
Another witness, the General Manager of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Dr. Oluwafemi Osanyintolu, told the coroner that though they got to the crash site early, the crowd at the crash site was an impediment to rescue operations.
Osanyintolu said emergency agencies on ground, including firemen, Rapid Respond Squad, ambulance men, Lagos State Transport Management Authority officials and policemen, could not access the aircraft immediately they got there because of the surging crowd.
He said when they were overwhelmed by the crowd, they had to call Governor Babatunde Fashola, who deployed the Disaster Rescue Unit of the Nigerian Army to assist.