Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Dana crash: Lagos Coroner laments missing bodies of pilots

A coroner's inquest into the ill-fated MD-83 Dana Plane crash at Iju-Ishaga, a Lagos suburb that claimed over 153 lives on has blamed the inconclusive report of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the missing bodies of the pilots for the difficulties at unravelling the cause of the crash.

In a verdict delivered by Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe at the Ebute Meta Magistrates' Court two years after the crash, the coroner held that the AIB only submitted report of its preliminary investigation and was yet to conclude its findings with regards to the cause of the crash.

The coroner further stated that the missing bodies of the pilot and co-pilot, if found, would have been tested to determine if they were under the influence of alcohol.

In the course of the inquest, a witness who claimed to have arrived the crash scene told the court that he found the pilot's body lying on the ground after the mishap.

Notwithstanding his claims, consultant pathologist Dr. John Obafunwa had in his testimony, averred that nine bodies including the pilot and co-pilots were uncounted for at the hospital, while 144 were identified by or through their relatives.

According to Obafunwa, the unaccounted bodies could either be individuals other than those who bought the ticket or those who were completely incinerated.

Hence, Komolafe in his judgment held that "the missing bodies of the pilot and co-pilot was a lost opportunity to determine whether they were under the influence of alcohol.

"Had their bodies been identified, samples would have been taken and analyzed. The disappearance of their bodies has shut us out from finding out whether they were under the influence or not.

"I am not saying it is likely, but the opportunity was lost," said Komolafe.

On the cause of death of victims, the coroner held that most of them died from multiple injuries, blunt force trauma, air plane crash and fire.

He noted that from picture evidence, some of the passengers were alive after the crash but died from smoke inhalation, adding that 12 people died from suspected carbon mono oxide poisoning.

Quoting Obafunwa's findings, the coroner said: "A few died from heart failure, asphyxia (absence of oxygen), severe burns injury, soot inhalation, and severe crano-cerebral injury.

"I find that the commonest factor associated with death was multiple injuries - fractured arms and legs, fractured ribs, punctured lungs, fractured skull, and so on.

"You cannot attribute death to one single injury. Each one can individually cause death."

Komolafe who at the end, made nine recommendations, urged governments (federal states and local governments) to put in place effective emergency response structures.

He recommended the establishment of a national body for logistics and supply; body retrievals; body handlers as well as periodic meetings and rehearsals among the units.

Komolafe also noted the need for establishment of Forensic Science laboratories in each geo-political zone as well as the enactment of a National Coroner's Act.

"Public sensitization and provision of fire service stations in every local government across the country must be considered," he said.

Wednesday 04 June 2014


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