After a crash, the stories always come out that put faces on the “seats.” The one that has, so far, struck me the most in the Dana Air crash is a tale of mixed blessings.
First Omonigho Akinsanya had come to visit, and now she was waiting in the crowded, overheated Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport to catch a plane to take her home. She, with her 5-year-old son Moyo, and her sister had been waiting in line, trying to travel back home.
The airport, which is undergoing renovations is reportedly hot and crowded, and Omonigho Akinsanya had her son to manage. She was understandably upset when a man broke in line and took the last seat in the crowded airplane that her sister had already boarded.
His breaking in line saved her life. But she cannot rejoice in the luck, fortune, Karma, coincidence that left her alive. Her sister was one of the victims.
This is her sister’s sad story, and her own too, because it is a terrible loss and a close call. But it is only one of 153+ losses (not forgetting the families on the ground who were minding their own business in their own apartments when a plane fell on their heads.)
It is hard to sift rumor from fact. One rumor is that the flight had been diverted or delayed due to Dame Patience Jonathan, the first lady, but that rumor has been discounted; she was at an event on Sunday when the crash occurred, and nowhere near the airport. There was a rumor of a bird strike, stemming from an official speculating on the cause. And then of course, everyone is studying the plane’s history, and wondering if it was airworthy.
The MD-83 belonged to Alaska Airlines from 1990 when it was new until 2007, when the plane’s title went to North Shore Aircraft LLC (probably the financier) and leased back for a year. Before it was retired in 2008, it had gone through a diversion on Nov 4 2002 due to an overheated light ballast; on August 20, 2006 due to a “chafed wire bundle.” And as Dana Air 5N-RAM it suffered a bird strike on April 19, 2010.
The pilot, Peter Waxtan, was an American, and the first officer was Mike Mahendra, from India. Captain Waxton called a double engine failure. The pilot had requested to land on Murtala Muhammad Airport’s longer runway 18R before calling air controllers back a few minutes later to report a total emergency.
There has been some negative buzz regarding maintenance of this MD83 in the hands of Dana Air, and a recent discussion of Dana Air crew being reluctant to fly in this plane, due to mechanical difficulties on a recent flight, even that Dana Air execs insisted the plane be flown. Plus, it was overloaded.
It is still so soon after the crash that we hardly know which questions to ask first. There are so many questions. But if Dana Air was putting faulty aircraft in the air, they will have to answer for it. Too bad it will be too late for those who were aboard.