While concerted efforts were being made to recover the bodies of the passengers of the ill-fated Dana aircraft, the families of the deceased 153 passengers on board and about 10 residents of affected buildings, recounted their tales of woe.
Speaking to THISDAY, one of the survivors of the destroyed building, Mr. Emmanuel Soyemi, said he escaped unhurt with his family by sheer luck. According to him, his son David was about to go and buy recharge card when he called him back. That singular act saved the boy and father as the plane crashed into their building, slicing off the upper building which was yet uncompleted.
He said: “After I had returned from church, I was about to go out when I asked David to go and buy recharge card so that I can confirm if the person I wanted to see was at home. When he was about to leave, power was restored and I called him back. The next thing I heard was a loud bang and the trunk of the plane fell right inside my building”. `
For his 13-year-old son, David, the crash shocked him to his nerves. He said: “For the first time in my life, I thanked PHCN because they saved my life. If they had not restored power, when they did, the plane would have landed on me.”
With a shudder at the thought of his near-death experience, he said at the twinkle of an eye, the plane came out of nowhere and crashed into their building. “It cut off the upper part of our building and would have done worse damage if not for the palm and mango tree inside our compound that cushioned the effect,” David said.
Although he was not at home at the time of the crash, Alhaji Nojeem Shittu, a landlord in the area, said he quickly rushed home on hearing the information that his house was among the ones destroyed.
“What I saw at the crash scene was not what I can describe now. I saw dead bodies of people at the scene. I saw the charred remains of a white man and another of a dead boy,” he said.
The Heartless also came to Feast
While many were mourning the death of their relatives and friends, others came but with an ulterior motive: to scavenge and steal what was left behind. Many of those who rushed down pretended to render help while scouting for valuables, some of which they quickly picked and ferreted into their pockets.
Aside the human lives that were lost, the cows that were kept in one of the destroyed compounds were roasted to death. The scavengers swooped on the carcasses of the burnt cows. The fish pond in the compound was not left out too as they were emptied by the mongers.
At one of the compounds visited to ascertain the level of damage, a resident who was simply identified as Femiforbade anyone from entering his premises on account of his experience with the previous set of people that came in to help who turned out to rob them of what was not lost to the fire.
He said: “Some Nigerians are very wicked. Even with the gravity of the calamity that was visited on our area, some people whose consciences have been smeared came into our compound on the pretext to help us evacuate our remaining properties only for them to turn around and stole them.”
Even though the crash affected different families with their different backgrounds, they were all strewn together by the chord of sorrow and gloom. The sombre mood that enveloped the mourners at the different residents visited by THISDAY was evidently telling of tragedy that befell them, and us all.
At no 18B Elsie Pearse Street, Victoria Island, the premises of Resource Intermediaries Limited (RIL), an outsourcing company, wore a gloomy look. The members of staff were seen walking listlessly as the shocking impact of the triple death visited on them sunk in.
The company lost two of its members of staff, Ms Aimanehi Celine Onemolease and Mrs. Fortune David-Kolawole. Unfortunately too, Mrs. David-Kolawole was with her little tot, Eyin Ojuoluwa, in the plane.
When THISDAY visited the company, a condolence register had already been opened for the deceased and both the organisation’s members of staff and their customers trooped in to sign.
However, attempts to speak with the Managing Director, Mr. Soji Oyawoye, proved abortive.
THISDAY however gathered that both ladies were hard-working persons who had warm personalities. According to them, their death was as shocking as it can get. To honour the departed, the company closed operations for the day.
In the condolence notes written by Ms. Tutu Okunubi, said described Onemolease as an efficient worker. She said: “Celine, over-efficiency, you were a hard-worker beyond compare. You were really dedicated to your job.”
Another condolence note simply signed by Davina read: “I can never forget your smile that shows the whole world how beautiful your heart is.
Also, Naisara, another colleague wrote: “My dear friend, the few years we were friends can never be forgotten. I can still see your beautiful smile and know that you are with the Lord.”
At the residence of the Late Ehime Aikhomu, the son of the late former Vice President under General Ibrahim Babangida, Late Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, hordes of sympathisers besieged to condole the family.
Ehime’s death which came as a blow to the family and friends, came at the heels of his father’s death. Some of his friends who spoke to THISDAY on condition of anonymity said they did not believe the news until they stepped into the compound and saw the crowd of sympathisers.
Emotions ran riot severally as each group of sympathisers thronged in. Perhaps this was what was meant by the saying that while the dead are beyond pain, those left behind suffer through excruciating hurts in mourning their dead.
His widow, Titi wept as the reality sunk in slowly but surely, with balls of hot tears cascading down her cheeks.
One of Ehime’s friends, Uche, described the deceased as a warm hearted person who will go out of his way to lend a helping hand to a friend in need. Pointing at the large number of people in the compound, she said: “If he was not a good person, you would not see this number of people in the compound.”