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June 4, 2012

Nigeria plane crash: Dana Air Flight Crashes in Lagos Killing at Least 163, Death Toll Rising

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) - Crews scoured the wreckage of an airliner Monday looking for data recorders to piece together what brought down a Dana Air flight in Lagos, killing all 153 people aboard and at least 10 on the ground.

The pilot of the doomed flight that crashed in a residential neighborhood in Lagos, Nigeria, is an American, according to Oscar Wason, the airline's director of flight operations. The co-pilot is from India, while the engineer is from Indonesia, he said. Wason did not release their identities.
The rescue effort turned to the recovery of bodies in the West African nation's most populous city after the director of Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency said early Monday there were no survivors of the crash.
The death toll was likely to increase as crews searched through the rubble of a two-story residential building struck by the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 on Sunday.
It was unclear how many people were inside the building and on the street outside at the time of the crash, Mohammad Sani Sidi, the emergency management director, told CNN from the crash site.
The Dana Air flight from the Nigerian capital of Abuja crashed at 3:43 p.m. (10:43 a.m. ET) in the Lagos neighborhood of Iju Ishaga, just north of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, according to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
By daybreak, crews working through the night had recovered at least 80 bodies, including 10 believed to be residents, Sidi said.
Among the dead are six Chinese citizens who were on board the flight, the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria said Monday.
Rescue efforts were hampered by massive crowds that poured into the streets following the crash, making it difficult for crews and medical workers to get to the wreckage.
Police used batons to beat back onlookers to make way for rescue crews and ambulances, witnesses said.
"There were so many people, you had to push through people to walk," recalled Pearl Ezeokeke, who was at the scene.
Femi Green-Adebo, who lives a few blocks from the crash site, said he was home Sunday when he heard a "loud explosion" and ran outside with friends.
"We were trying to see if we could help others," he said. "It was so hot we couldn't get close because of the fire."
Green-Adebo said he saw charred bodies amid the wreckage.
The number of people in the street quickly swelled, and he said he saw police and ambulances trying to make their way through the crowd.
"I left because there were too many people. It was crowded," he said. "I was just thinking about the people, if there was anyone in there."
Video from the scene showed people clambering on the wreckage -- including parts of the fallen plane -- and working together to hold up what appeared to be a fire hose.
Nine hours after the plane crashed, Sidi said "crowd control (was a) big challenge." But by 1:30 a.m. Monday, the Nigerian official situation was under control and the greatest difficulty was sifting through the wreckage.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan ordered an immediate investigation in to the crash, while declaring a three-day period of national mourning for victims of the crash.
A statement from his office noted that the incident came the same day that two church bombings in northern Nigeria killed at least 15 people and wounded 38 others, according to Red Cross spokesman Andronicus Adeyemo.
"President Jonathan assures air travelers in the country that every possible effort will be made to ensure that the right lessons are learned from the tragic loss of valuable lives in today's plane crash and that further measures will be put in place to boost aviation safety," the statement from Jonathan's office said.
Nigeria's deadliest air disaster came in July 1991, when all 261 on board a Nigerian Airways airliner died after its landing gear caught fire shortly after takeoff in Saudi Arabia en route to Nigeria, and the plane went down. About 225 people were killed in two crashes that occurred within two months of each other in late 2005.
On Saturday, a Boeing 727 cargo plane operated by Nigerian-based Allied Air from Lagos overshot the runway at Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, and hit a passenger bus, killing 10 people, officials said.
Lagos, with a population of more than 7.9 million people, is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. It is Nigeria's commercial hub.
Dana Air set up a 24-hour hotline to provide information about to the victims' family members.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of guests who were involved in the Dana Air mishap," the airline posted on its web site. "May the souls of the deceased rest in peace."
Dana Air, which is privately owned and based in Lagos, began operations in 2008.
CNN's Vladimir Duthiers reported from Lagos and Chelsea J. Carter from Atlanta. CNN's Karen Smith, Greg Botelho, Jareen Imam, Yousuf Basil, Nana Karikari-apau and Ashley Gallagher also contributed to this report.

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