All 117 feared dead in Nigeria plane crash
Updated: 2005-10-24 06:15
Twisted chunks of metal, ripped luggage and mangled bodies turned a swath of woods into a grisly scene after a Nigerian passenger plane carrying 117 people crashed shortly after takeoff and officials said Sunday that all aboard were feared dead.
Aerial view image from television of rescuers working at the crash site of a Nigerian jetliner, near Kishi, Nigeria, Sunday Oct 23 2005. It appears all 117 passengers and crew are dead, according to the Nigerian Red Cross after the Bellview airline operated Boeing 737 crashed shortly after takeoff from Lagos, en route to the capital Abuja. [AP]
Red Cross and government officials said search teams found no sign that anyone on the Boeing 737 survived when it plunged to earth Saturday night after leaving Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria.
"It was a very pitiable sight. The aircraft was partly submerged (in the ground) and broken into several pieces," said Fidelis Onyenyiri, chief of the National Civil Aviation Authority. "There were similarly no survivors from what we saw."
The US State Department said one American was on the flight.
President Olusegun Obasanjo, grieving for his wife who died in Spain within hours of the crash, asked "all Nigerians to pray for all those aboard the plane and their families."
Confusion reigned for hours after the disaster, reflecting sometimes inefficient government in this West African nation of 130 million people and its freewheeling air transport system in which a dozen local airlines fly from chaotic airports where crowds fight over seats in planes.
Abilola Oloko, spokesman for Oyo state, where the Bellview Airlines jet went down, initially reported that more than half those on the doomed plane had survived. But he reversed himself a few hours later, blaming chaos at the crash scene for conflicting reports.
There also was confusion about the crash site itself.
Officials first said the pilots issued a distress call before the plane disappeared from radar while over the Atlantic Ocean about 15 miles west of Lagos and said helicopters were searching the sea for wreckage.