Sosoliso crash: Families yet to be fully compensated 2 years after
By UCHE USIM
Monday, December 10, 2007
Families of victims of the December 10, 2005 plane crash in Port Harcourt involving a Sosoliso’s DC-9 aircraft (flight 1145) are yet to receive their claims.The situation is worsened by the fact that the airline has been grounded since last year by the Federal Government.According to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regulations, families of air crash victims ought to recieve a $100,000 compensation each. But the airline has been unable to pay as it had an axe to grind with its insurers, Lloyds. Flight 1145 had 109 persons on board at the time of the crash and 103 of them died instantly as a result of fire burns, while five others later died in the hospital, bringing the number of casualties to 108. Report of the Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau blamed the crash on low level windshear and crew’s delay in aborting landing at that time. Many watched helplessly at the airport as the victims, which included Pastor Bimbo Odukoya, a popular evangelist, burnt to death. Fire fighting vehicles of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) were reportedly without water, a situation which hampered rescue operations. As the nation remembers victims of the Sosoliso crash, a call has been made to the Federal Government to refocus on the aviation sector, upgrade the industry and make air travelling safer. Commenting on the non paynment of compensation, the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, regretted that what was due each family had not been paid in full as only partial compensation had been made. According to the NCAA helmsman, “only N118.5 million has been paid as compensation to some families here and there out of N1.34 billion. Not a single family has been paid the stipulated $100,000.”Continuing, he said: “They will come and tell you they have paid compensation, if they paid true compensation 103 passengers would have collected N1.34 billion, however they paid partially here and there out of that amount they have only paid N118.5 million as of today. So, they have not even paid up to N200 million. So they still have to pay almost N1.2 billion.”
The President of Aviation Round Table (ART) Capt. Dele Ore, told aviation journalists that “as the crash turns two years, our hearts remain with the families of those children and other families, but are we prepared to cope in case of a reoccurence?” “We have gone a long way since then in terms of regulation but in terms of search and rescue, if such happens again, can we readily rescue people? I have my doubts,” he said. Ore said the second year anniversary should serve as a period to refocus on the industry to ensure that adequate facilities were available to offer help to people in case of such emergency. Ore spoke as the victims’ families continued to wait for their compensation claims which statutorily is 100,000 US dollars per victim. Payment of the remaining claims is presently contentious even as parents of the children from Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, slammed a N30 billion suit on the airline, requesting for damages. Also the nation’s regulatory aviation body, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in November last year, suspended the airline from operations for safety reasons and also for failing to pay up the compensation claims. Following the development, the airline was also unable to scale the recapitalisation hurdle and has since been out of operation with the Federal Government and the NCAA, insisting that only payment of the claims could make its case to be reconsidered. The Director-General of the NCAA, Dr Harold Demuren, has consistently said that until the shortfall of the compensation claims, which is over N1 billion was paid, the airline would remain grounded. The Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau (AIPB) of the Minstry of Aviation had given probable and contributory factors for the crash. “The probable cause of the accident was the crew’s decision to continue the approach (to land) beyond the decision altitude without having the runway and/or airport in sight,” the report stated. The report also said that the aircraft tail section, eventually made contact with the grass strip between the runway 21 and the taxi-way and its rear fuselage later ran into an exposed concrete drainage culvert which detached one of its engines. The report said that wind shear, poor visibility in thunderstorm and rain, as at the time the aircraft came in to land was also a contributory factor as the airfield lightings were not on and may have impaired the pilot from sighting the runway. It recommended that airfield lightings under FAAN should be transferred the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) so that they could be controlled from the control tower.
It also recommended among other things the need for uninterrupted power supply (UPS) to airfield lightings to ensure all critical aids were on throughout the operational period of airports.
This article was taken from the online version of the Daily Sun. sunnewsonline.com