Nigerian Plane Crashes, 141 Feared Dead; Route Used By Oil Execs
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ A Nigerian airliner carrying 141 people crashed into swampland east of Lagos and everyone on board was believed to have been killed, aviation officials said today.
About 24 hours after the Boeing 727 lost contact with air traffic controllers, wreckage was found in the village of Imota, 40 miles southeast of Lagos, said Aviation Minister Ita Udoh Umeh.
The flight from Port Harcourt, in Nigeria’s oil-producing region 270 miles southeast of Lagos, is used often by foreign oil executives. The British Foreign Office said today that six Britons were among the passengers, but there was no immediate word on whether other foreigners were on board.
The plane belonged to Aviation Development Corp., a private commercial airline operating in Nigeria.
Air traffic controllers at Lagos’ Murtala Mohammed Airport lost contact with the plane at 5:05 p.m. Thursday after the crew of another plane reported seeing a ball of fire where it vanished. The plane was due to land in Lagos with 132 passengers and nine crew.
``From the information I have, it would seem the plane just plunged into the lagoon,″ Umeh told reporters. Rescuers said the plane’s tail was visible from the air, sticking out of the muddy crash scene.
Six helicopters, most of them donated by foreign oil companies, joined Nigerian police, aviation authorities and soldiers in the search today. Rescue workers also flew over the waters off Lagos, known as the Bight of Benin.
Relatives of people on board gathered at the airline’s offices throughout the night and early today awaiting final word on the fate of Flight 086.
Last year, ADC was rated Nigeria’s best airline based in part on its fatality-free record. This came despite a July 1995 crash-landing of an ADC DC-9 at the airport in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. None of the 90 people on board was hurt in the incident.
Today’s search progressed slowly, since Nigeria’s government has never created a quick-response search and rescue agency to handle such emergencies.
Demands for such an agency were raised in 1992 after a Nigerian military transport plane crashed and killed all 163 people on board. It took searchers more than 24 hours to reach the wreckage, even though it had plunged into swamps just outside of Lagos.