More than 150 killed in Nigeria plane crash

LAGOS, Nigeria -- A passenger plane carrying more than 150 people crashed in Nigeria’s largest city on Sunday, killing all passengers and crew aboard, an emergency official said. Several charred corpses could be seen in the rubble of a building damaged by the crash, as firefighters searched for survivors and pulled a dead body from the wreckage.

Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Authority Harold Demuren said that all aboard Sunday’s Dana Air flight had died. He did not say how many were on the flight.

The Lagos state government said in a statement that 153 people were on the flight going from Abuja to Lagos.

Yushau Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, said there were likely more casualties on the ground, but the number was unknown. He said they were also still trying to get an official manifest on the flight. Sometimes flights in Nigeria issue paper tickets and don’t record all passengers via computer.

The plane did not to appear to have nose-dived into a building, but seemed to have landed on its belly. It first crashed through a furniture shop and then into residential buildings next to the workshop in this densely packed neighborhood.

The nose of the plane was embedded into the three-story apartment building, damaging only one part of the structure. Fire still smoldered everywhere as several thousand people looked on. A group of men stood atop the landing gear that was smoking and took pictures with their mobile phones.

Praise Richard, a witness, said he was watching a film when he heard a loud explosion that sounded like a bomb. He rushed outside and saw massive smoke and flames rising from the crash site around 3:45 p.m.

At the crash site, an Associated Press reporter saw parts of the plane’s seat signs scattered around. Firefighters tried to put out the smoldering flames of a jet engine and carried at least one corpse from the building that continued to crumble.

Two fire trucks and about 50 rescue personnel were at the site after the plane went down. Some of those gathered around the site helped firefighters bring in the water hoses from their trucks.

The Nigerian Red Cross arrived, as well as Nigeria’s air crash safety investigators.

It was not immediately known what type of plane this was, but Dana Air’s website says that the company operates its Lagos to Abuja and Abuja to Lagos flights using a Boeing MD83 aircraft.

A military helicopter flew overhead. The sound of the crowd was also occasionally punctuated by the noise of aircraft still landing at the airport.

Lagos’ international airport is a major hub for West Africa and saw 2.3 million passengers pass through it in 2009, according to the most recent statistics provided by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.

In August 2010, the U.S. announced it had given Nigeria the FAA’s Category 1 status, its top safety rating that allows the nation’s domestic carriers to fly directly to the U.S.

The Nigerian government said it also now has full radar coverage of the entire nation. However, in a nation where the state-run electricity company is in tatters, state power and diesel generators sometimes both fail at airports, making radar screens go blank.

The presidency said in a statement the crash “has sadly plunged the nation into further sorrow on a day when Nigerians were already in grief over the loss of many other innocent lives in the church bombing in Bauchi state.”

A suicide car bomber drove into a north Nigeria church’s compound Sunday and detonated his explosives as worshippers left an early morning service, killing at least eight people and wounding dozens more, officials and witnesses said.

Recent major airline crashes in Nigeria

-- June 3: A Dana Air flight from Abuja to Lagos crashes killing all 153 people on board. Investigators have begun looking for the cause.

-- Oct. 29, 2006: An Aviation Development Co. flight from Abuja to Sokoto crashes, killing 96 people, including the top spiritual leader for the nation’s Muslims. The plane crashed 76 seconds after going airborne. An investigative report found that just before the crash alarms began sounding in the cockpit and that the pilots’ incorrect actions stalled the plane. The report read: “Although bad weather may have created the situation, which the pilots reacted to, they reacted inappropriately.”

-- Dec. 10, 2005: A Sosoliso Airlines flight full of schoolchildren flying from Abuja to Port Harcourt crashes, killing 107 people. A U.S. Federal Aviation Administration report later says the pilot was “reportedly racing a thunderstorm” nearing the airport. The report said inclement weather also forced the pilot to make an instrument landing — meaning that visibility had been reduced to the point the pilot needed to rely on instruments to make his landing.

-- Oct. 22, 2005: A Bellview Airlines flight crashes, killing 177 people, including a U.S. citizen, after nose-diving into the ground at high speed. An investigative report later said the plane’s captain, a 49-year-old former pilot, had been hired by Bellview after he had been working at a dairy for about 14 years. The report said the pilot also had been “shot in the head during a robbery attempt” during that break from flying.

-- May 4, 2002: An EAS airliner with 77 people aboard crashes into a bustling working-class neighborhood of the northern city of Kano just after takeoff. Only four people aboard survived the crash, which killed dozens more on the ground. In total, at least 149 people were killed.

-- Associated Press writers Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria and Carley Petesch in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

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