By Eric Elezuo
There was a loud sound, followed by a thick smoke, but thankfully, there was no fire. That was the story of the ill-fated a Bell 206 flight, with registration number 5N BQW, which took off from Port Harcourt enroute Lagos airport. It crashed just two minutes before landing at a private residence on number 16 Salvation street, Opebi in Ikeja Lagos.
Three persons including two crew members, and a passenger were on board. While two died on the spot, the other gave up the ghost while receiving treatment at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
According to the Director-General of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), which responded shortly after the crash, Dr Femi Osanyintolu, the death of the crew members from the investigation carried out, was due to impact the helicopter had with the ground.
Reacting to the crash, the owners of the ill-fated aircraft, Quorum Aviation, stated that two persons lost their lives before a third died in the hospital.
Below is the statement from the company:
“A light helicopter belonging to Quorum Aviation with registration Number 5N-BQW flying from Port-Harcourt to Lagos crashed between two buildings in Ikeja en-route to Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
“As soon as we received news of the accident, we promptly informed the aviation authorities, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
“Preliminary reports indicate that of the three souls on board – all crew, two of the crew members lost their lives whilst the third one is currently receiving treatment at a hospital.
“We have been made to understand that nobody in the building, nor in the vicinity was injured for which we are grateful.
“In accordance with aviation regulations, the AIB has taken over the investigation process. We hereby ask members of the public to await the outcome of the investigation.
But the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) on Friday confirmed the death of a third person from the helicopter crash. The third victim had been rushed to the Lagos State Teaching Hospital for treatment.
“The victim failed to recover from injuries sustained and died later on Friday,” spokesperson for the AIB, Mr Tunji Oketunmbi, confirmed to Channels Television. He noted that no one on the ground was hurt.
The helicopter, a Bell 206, with registration number 5N BQW belonged to Quorum Aviation.
It was travelling in from Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital with two crew members and a passenger before it crashed into a residential building in the Opebi area of Lagos on Friday.
Earlier, the AIB said it had recovered the helicopter’s black box, commencing investigations into the cause of the crash.
However, according to Istablog9ja, @gloriaugolee, who claimed to be the childhood friend of the helicopter pilot, gave his name as Captain Chika Ernest, saying that the pilot on discovery that the chopper was headed for a crash, emptied the fuel to avoid an explosion on impact. She however, added that the pilot would have made if prompt medical attention was extended to him at the hospital.
“Taken to the hospital but after taking all the videos for social media, they waited for police report until he died,” she wrote. Twitter users have however, faulted the narrative, saying that it was impossible for the pilot, who was brought in via ambulance could not have been taken care of at the hospital, even after he was treated at the scene of the accident.
“How can they wait for police report when he was attended to on the crash site by accident and emergency team, then was conveyed by an ambulance with lagos state officials including RRS, fire service and Lastma, this story doesn’t add up pls,” says @oil_shaeikh
On her part, @kachi_babyyy, said “How is that possible ? An ambulance took him to the hospital , I am sure the medical team that attended to them at the crash site would have told the doctor or whosoever is attending to him it was an helicopter crash. Police report is just for gunshot wounds or so I thought.”
Ugolee described Chika Ernest as someone who was always looking out for others, and that prompted him to release all fuel to minimise casualty.
Other accounts said that the pilot clearly avoided crashing into a school or roof of building, and managed to squeeze itself between the walls of two buildings where thankfully, there were no on available.
“The pilot was a hero,” a respondent told The Boss.
Meanwhile, condolence messages have continued to flood in to commiserate with the families of the crash victims.
In a two-paragraph statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, President Muhammadu Buhari prayed to God to console the bereaved and heal the injured.
The statement titled, ‘President Buhari condoles with families of Lagos helicopter crash victims,’ read, “President Muhammadu Buhari commiserates with families, friends and associates of victims of the Bell 206 helicopter operated by Quorum Aviation which crashed Friday into a building in Opebi, Lagos State.
“While the nation awaits report of investigation into the accident by aviation regulatory agencies, the President prays that God will console the bereaved families, grant peace to the souls of the dead and speedy recovery for the injured.”
In his condolence message to families, friends and associates of the crash victims, the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu promised that his government would work with all the relevant Federal Government agencies to unravel the remote and immediate cause of the accident so as to prevent a reoccurrence.
“There is nothing to fear as men and officers of the State emergency services were promptly deployed to the scene of the crash and they had brought everything under control. The environment is also safe and secure,” he assured residents of Opebi.
The All Progressives Congress National Leader and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, condoled with families, relations, and friends of the victims, while calling on the aviation authorities to investigate the cause of the crash.