13 dead as charter plane crash-lands in Nigeria's Lagos
LAGOS - Reuters
A picture taken on October 23, 2003 shows a wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos. A plane with 20 passengers on board suffered an engine failure on October 3, 2013 shortly after takeoff in Lagos, crash-landing on the runway before catching fire. AFP PHOTO PIUS UTOMI EKPEIA Nigerian charter plane with 20 people on board suffered engine failure shortly after takeoff from Lagos on Thursday, crash-landing near an airport fuel depot and killing at least 13 people, officials said.
The aircraft made by the Brazilian firm Embraer and operated by Nigeria's Associated Airlines took off at 9:30 am (0830 GMT) from Lagos's Murtala Mohammed International Airport, the aviation ministry said in a statement.
The flight destined for Akure in Ondo state (southwest) crashed shortly after takeoff with 13 passengers and seven crew on board, Joe Obi, the ministry spokesman, told AFP. "Thirteen people (on board) have been confirmed dead, six injured, while one person is still unaccounted for," Obi said. An official from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency said the cause of the crash was engine failure and that the plane burst into flames after hitting the ground. The plummeting aircraft narrowly missed a series of large, fuel-laden containers that lie between the international and domestic terminals, ultimately crashing in a muddy area, an AFP reporter said. Rescue workers and firefighters were combing through the charred and scattered fuselage, some of which was embedded in the heavy mud.
The aircraft's black box had been located and handed over to aviation officials, Yakubu Datti, an aviation ministry spokesman at the scene told AFP. The plane was carrying the remains of ex-Ondo state governor Olusegun Agagu, who had been set for burial this weekend, Obi of the aviation ministry told AFP. Reports were also circulating in Nigeria's media about other prominent figures who may have been on the charter flight, but details could not be confirmed. Associated Airlines was said to be a small domestic charter service. The accident came more than a year after a plane belonging to another domestic carrier, Dana Air, crashed following an engine failure as it approached Lagos on a flight that originated in the capital Abuja. All the 153 people on board were killed, along with six others on the ground as the plane plunged into a densely packed residential neighbourhood, destroying a three-story building in June of last year. Nigeria vowed to clean up its domestic air industry after the Dana Air crash, promising enhanced safety checks and more rigorous standards. The head of the civil aviation agency was fired earlier this year.
The Dana Air crash was said to have been the deadliest in Nigeria since 1992, when a military C-130 transport plane went down after takeoff in Lagos, killing around 200 people on board.
The country's domestic air industry has been mired in a state of nearly perpetual crisis, with leading carrier Air Nigeria closing operations last year following a wave of labour disputes. Because of poor service and frequent delays on many internal flights, charter services are common, especially among the political and business elite.