The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has suspended the operations of Associated Aviation Limited, owners of Associated Airlines, following Thursday’s crash, which killed 13 out of the 20 people on board.
The EMB 120 2ER 5N-BJY aircraft with 30 passenger capacity, which was manufactured by Embraer S.A Brazil and registered in Nigeria on May 22, 2007 crashed shortly after take-off from the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.
The aircraft was taking the corpse of former Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Agagu, for burial when the incident occurred.
The Director-General, NCAA, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, announced the suspension of all operations of the airline at the General Hospital Ikeja after paying a visit to injured passengers on Saturday.
He said, “Associated Airlines operations have been suspended by the NCAA. Let me say for the purpose of clarity, I said their operations, I mean all their operations of Associated Airline have been suspended by the NCAA. I did not say any certification was cancelled but all operations.”
According to him, the grounding of operations of the airline is to pave the way for ongoing probe into the cause of the crash, adding that NCAA will continue to apply its rules on all airlines.
He explained that even though the aircraft was certified airworthy before the ill-fated flight, it was important to note that the continuous airworthiness certification of an airplane was the responsibility of the airline itself.
He, however, noted that the insurance company handling the airline had provided documents about the state of its insurance.
Meanwhile, there were reports on Saturday that one of the seven survivors had died.
The identity of the victim could not be ascertained as at press time.
The Head, Aeromedical Standards, NCAA, Dr. Theresa Bassey, had said on Friday that all the seven survivors were responding to treatment.
In a related development, the Federal Government has also said it will release the preliminary report of the plane crash on Monday.
The Accident Investigation Bureau had obtained documents and items that could give clues to the cause of the crash from offices of aviation agencies and Associated Airlines.
The Commissioner, AIB, Captain Usman Muktar, in a telephone interview with our correspondent, confirmed that the preliminary report would be ready on Monday, adding that it would contain basic facts about the tragic crash.
“We expect the preliminary report to be ready on Monday. We are waiting to ascertain some information and we hope to get them by Sunday. The preliminary report contains factual information about the crash. It will also tell us about the weather at the time of the incident.”
The AIB commissioner also confirmed that investigators had obtained some documents vital to the investigative process. However, he did not give details of the documents.
He said, “Getting some documents and items are part of our standard operating procedures. All the relevant aviation agencies, including the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and Nigeria Meteorological Agency are our partners. We don’t have any problem with them. Whatever document or anything we need, they give us.”
Meanwhile, the families of the victims of Thursday’s Associated Airlines plane crash in Lagos have appealed to the Lagos State Government not to organise a mass burial for their deceased relatives. The plea, which was made on Friday, followed the inability of aviation authorities to identify seven of the dead victims.
Some of the bodies were said to have been burnt beyond recognition. Seven passengers, who survived the crash, are still undergoing treatment in various hospitals in Lagos.
Usually, the government organises a mass burial for victims that cannot be identified in plane crashes or other major accidents.
The relatives told SUNDAY PUNCH that they were optimistic that a DNA test would identify the victims of the crash. They said retrieving the remains of their loved ones in order to give them a decent and befitting burial was the least they could do for them.
One of the relatives, an uncle to one of the male victims said the family would be patient for the result of the DNA test. Pleading anonymity because the family was mourning, he said, “The people that died are not many and a DNA test will be done so we are waiting for the result. There is no reason for a mass burial and the families will not accept it.”
Another relative of one of the victims told one of our correspondents at the Lagos State University Teaching hospital that his family would not embrace the idea of a mass burial.
“I am yet to see the corpse of my brother, they say it is badly burnt but we are optimistic that the DNA test will reveal his identity. Of course, a mass burial is out of it,” he said pleading not to be named.
Also on Friday, the Lagos State Government, ruled out the likelihood of a mass burial for the victims. The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lateef Ibirogba, said rather than a mass burial, the government would strive to identify the victims through DNA tests and thereafter release their bodies to their relatives for proper burial.
“There is no room for a mass burial for the victims. Lagos State started the process of DNA identification with the victims of the Dana crash in 2012. The state will adopt the same procedure for this incident. No mass burial,” Ibirogba said.