KADUNA State governor, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa and former national Security Adviser (NSA), Andrew Owoye Azazi, were among the six people that died in a helicopter crashed in the creeks of Bayelsa State at about 3.30 p.m. on Saturday.
The deceased left Okoloba community in the creeks of Bayelsa State, which was the venue of the burial of Pa Tamunoobebara Douglas, father of Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Research, Documentation and Strategy, Mr Oronto Natel Douglas, and were heading towards their hotel in the state capital, Yenagoa.
Reports had it that it was the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) that first alerted that it was in search of a helicopter that got missing.
Aircraft exploded, burst into flames
Information from residents in the creek area indicated that shortly after the helicopter took off, it appeared to have developed a mechanical problem. The pilot was said to have decided to plunge it into the creek, but it exploded upon impact and burst into flames.
The resultant loud explosion was said to have made people from the community around the crash site to rush out.
A source informed journalists that security agencies and emergency bodies had deployed boats and personnel to the spot of the accident in the creeks so as to be able to rescue probable survivors and remains of those who might have died.
NEMA deposits six bodies in mortuary
NEMA said on Saturday that it successfully completed search operation and that it had deposited the remains of the six crash victims in a morgue.
A statement by NEMA spokesman, Yushau Shuaib, on Saturday explained this.
Navy confirms ownership of helicopter
Meanwhile the Nigerian Navy has confirmed that its helicopter with registration number NN07 crashed at Nembe/Okorogba, while conveying some personalities to Port Harcourt at about 3.30 pm.
Director of Naval Information, Navy Commander, Kabiru Aliyu, who disclosed this Saturday night, said a combined team of Navy, Air Force, Operation Pulo Shield, NEMA and the Civil Defence Corps were deployed at the site of the incident.
It would be recalled that it was barely two months ago that Governor Danbaba Danfulani Suntai of Taraba State was involved in an air crash that has left him incapacitated.
Governor Suntai was flying the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan on Thursday, 25 October when it crashed at Yamtari village, a suburb of Yola, Adamawa State.
However, while Suntai, who is believed to be currently undergoing treatment in a German hospital, was said to have flown the plane he had accident in himself, victims of Saturday’s helicopter crash were flown in the Naval helicopter, marked NN07, by a pilot.
Sunday Tribune learnt that the helicopter, which crashed in the creeks, was conveying the victims from Okoloba, Nembe, to Yenagoa, when the incident occurred. It was said to have burst into flames.
Kaduna wears mournful look, officials keep mum
Following the news that Governor Yakowa was involved in the helicopter crash, the people of Kaduna State were thrown into deep mourning and had continued to commiserate with one another on phone over the sad development.
However, there was no official statement from the state government on the crash, even as senior government officials in the state declined to comment on the issue
At the gate of the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, Yakowa’s official residence and office, security was tight and the main entrance remained close to outsiders.
Journalists saw Yakowa last, Thursday
Yakowa, who many journalists saw for the last time when he presented the proposed the 2013 budget to the Kaduna Sate House of Assembly on Thursday, was overseas recently and had to return a day after the suicide bomb attack that killed many worshippers in a church within the Jaji Cantonment some kilometers away from the state capital.
As the news of the helicopter crash spread, there was serious traffic snarl at the Unguwan Sarki area of Kaduna North, even as security was beefed up in major parts of the city.
It’s an act of God - Balarabe Musa
Former Governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, told journalists on telephone that he was not aware of the incident, but described it as an act of God, if, indeed, it occurred.
‘It’s a big loss to Nigeria’
President, Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, Malam Shehu Sani, said the reported crash and death of Yakowa was a great loss to the people of Kaduna State, the Northern part of Nigeria and the entire nation.
According to him, “Patrick Yakowa is a patriot, a man of peace and a symbol of unity. He is a great nationalist and a unifying personality. He is one of the best governors in the history of Nigeria. Yakowa is a towering figure and a colossus in the search for national unity.
“Yakowa is one of Nigeria’s greats. He is an unusual politician. My sympathy and condolence go to his family and the entire people of Kaduna State. We have lost a giant dove and a towering olive.”
AYF condoles with Kaduna people
National President of the Arewa Youths Forum (AYF), Alhaji Gambo Ibrahim Gujungu, expressed shock over the incident and condoled with the good people of Kaduna State and deceased’s families.
Some past air crashes in Nigeria
26 July, 2004: Pan African Airlines’ helicopter crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in Escravos, Delta State. The four people on board died.
29 December, 2004: A Boeing 727 of Chanchangi Airlines belly-landed at the MMA.
29 December, 2004: A Kenya Airlines aircraft crashed-landed at the MMA due to gear fault.
28 January, 2005: A Nigeria Air Force fighter plane crashed into a farmland in Yar Kanya, Kano State.
25 February 25, 2005: ADC’s B73 aircraft had its tyre burnt while landing at Yola Airport.
27 March, 2005: An engine of a Boeing 737 of Bellview caught fire.
11 and 12 June, 2005: A Boeing 727-200 aircraft belonging to Chachangi Airlines overshot the runway at Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. Another overshot the runway at the airport in Jos, Plateau State, a day earlier.
24 June, 2005: A Russian aircraft belonging to Harka Air crash-landed at the MMA. All the people on board died
6 July, 2005: An Air France A330 plane crashed into a herd of cattle at Port Harcourt Airport sustaining serious damage and killing many of the cows. The airport had no perimeter fence and herdsmen usually took their cattle across the tarmac, sometimes abandoning them there.
23 July, 2005, a Lufthansa aircraft crash-landed at Lagos Airport and was badly damaged, but no life was lost.
22 October, 2005: A Bellview Airlines Boeing 737 airliner with 117 people on board crashed and disintegrates in flames shortly after take-off from Lagos. All people on board were killed.
10 December, 2005: A Sosoliso Airlines DC-9 crashed in Port Harcourt, killing all 103 on board. Most on board were schoolchildren going home for Christmas.
17 September 17, 2006: An 18-seater Dornier 228 Air Force transport plane, carrying 15 senior Army officers and three crew members crashed, leaving only three survivors that sustained serious injuries. The plane with registration number 228-212 at Oko village in Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State at about 10:30 a.m.
29 October, 2006: Aviation Development Corporation Airline Boeing 737 with 104 on board crashed minutes after take-off from Abuja Airport during a rain storm. All but six perished in the disaster. His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido, was among the dead.
10 November, 2006: An OAS Service helicopter crashed in Warri, Delta State, killing four people.
2 August, 2007: A Bristow-owned helicopter crashed inside ExxonMobil facility in Port Harcourt.
15 March, 2008: A Beechcraft 1900D plane marked 5N-JAH, belonging to Wing Aviation crashed in the mountainous forest of Busi in Cross River State on its way to Obudu airstrip. The wreckage was not found until six months after the disappearance of the aircraft. All four-man crew on board died.
14 March, 2012: A helicopter belonging to the Joint Task Force (JTF) crashed in Kabong, Jos, killing all members onboard, including four senior police officers.
2 June, 2012: A Nigerian cargo plane crashed in Ghana, killing 10 people.
3 June, 2012: A Dana Airlines Flight 9J 992 carrying 153 passengers crashed at a residential area of Iju-Ishaga, Lagos. No one survived the crash.
25, October, 2012: A Cessna 208B Grand Caravan crashed near Yola. Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State and two others were injured in the crash.