LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) - Mourners silently walked between rows of
the dead from a plane crash in Nigeria that killed the 153 people
aboard the airliner and others on the ground, peering into burned
faces in hopes of claiming the remains of their loved ones on
Those in grief passed by more than a dozen bodies able to be
recognized by sight alone in a Lagos hospital parking lot.
Onlookers wore surgical masks to block out the smell. As family
members softly wept and held each other, Nigeria's government
announced Tuesday it has indefinitely suspended Dana Air's license,
grounding the carrier that operated the MD-83 airplane that crashed
in the country's largest city and now faces widespread public
"We are without eyes," said Jennifer Enanana, as she sobbed in
the parking lot over the death of her younger brother in the crash.
She had lost another brother within the year. "We don't have
anybody that will protect us that can stand like a man and defend
us. Dana stole him."
The MD-83 went down in Lagos' Iju-Ishaga neighborhood, about
nine kilometers (five miles) from Lagos' Murtala Muhammed
International Airport. The area has grown dramatically over the
decades since British colonialists first established an airstrip
there, as Lagos surges toward becoming the largest city in Africa.
That population pressure has seen homes, business and industrial
sites shoot up along the approach route used by aircraft landing at
the airport, changing what used to be forests and wetlands into a
sprawling megacity. The development has put the population there at
risk with many aviation disasters in Nigeria over the last two
decades. Emergency workers fear a number of on-the-ground deaths
from Sunday's crash that saw the aircraft slam into two apartment
buildings, a printing press and a woodworking shop.
By midday Tuesday, searchers had recovered 150 bodies, according
to Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency. It's not yet
known how many people died on the ground. Emergency workers were still looking through the debris for bodies, and one damaged
building seemed on the verge of collapse.
Fearful family members who once crowded the neighborhood arrived
Tuesday to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, where
authorities had placed the 43 identifiable bodies so far collected
from the crash.
Professor David Oke, the chief medical director of the hospital,
told the dozens of relatives and diplomats gathered there that at
least 29 had already been identified, including the corpses of a
Chinese citizen and a Canadian.
Federal and state authorities have discussed using DNA testing
to identify other bodies, though that likely would require massive
assistance from laboratories outside of the country.
"We are aware there are more coming in and there are some
bodies in our other hospital ... that are really burnt beyond
recognition and may eventually need more forensic assessment," Oke
Outside the hospital, Ugonna Nwoka said his uncle had been
aboard the Dana Air flight that went down in a congested
neighborhood on Sunday, turning much of it to rubble. The uncle,
who worked for the country's aviation ministry, suddenly needed to
travel to Lagos and picked the Dana flight, Nwoka said.
Nwoka said he tried to go to the crash site on Monday but was
pushed away by security forces.
"We stayed for hours trying to plead to see what happened,"
Nwoka said. Asked why he needed to see the crash site, Nwoka said
if he didn't it would be "all like a dream, like a drama, like
it's not real."
Popular anger has risen in the country against the airline since
the crash. On Tuesday, the Nigerian government indefinitely
suspended Dana Air's license to fly in Africa's most population
nation, said Joe Obi, a spokesman for the country's aviation
ministry. Obi said officials took the action as a safety
Officials with Dana Air could not be immediately reached for
comment. A statement posted to the company's website described the
airline as "professionally managed," saying the flight's captain
had logged 18,500 flight hours, with 7,100 hours on an MD-83.
Dana Air said the plane that crashed had its last safety
inspection on May 30 and was certified to fly by Nigerian
regulators. However, oversight remains lax in oil-rich Nigeria,
whose government remains hobbled by mismanagement and corruption.
The cause of the crash on a sunny, clear Sunday afternoon
remains unclear. The crew radioed the tower that they had engine
trouble shortly before the plane went down.
Late Monday, emergency workers recovered both the flight data
recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, said Tunji Oketunbi, a
spokesman for the Accident Investigation Bureau, which probes
airplane crashes in Nigeria.
"We will take them abroad for decoding and that will help our
analysis," Oketunbi said Tuesday. "We will know what happened to
the aircraft shortly before it crashed."
An investigator from the U.S. National Transportation Safety
Board also was expected to join Nigerian authorities on Tuesday to
help them determine a cause for the crash, Oketunbi said.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that at least seven
American citizens were killed in the crash. Some, he said, were
dual U.S.-Nigerian citizens, but he could not provide more details.
He said the notification of next of kin is ongoing.
A woman from West Hartford, Connecticut, her husband and four
young children died on board the flight. Neighbors identified the
family as Maimuna Anyene, her Nigerian husband Onyeke, and their
children, a 5 month old, 1-year-old twins and a 3 year old.
Americans Josephine Onita and Jennifer Onita of Missouri City,
Texas also were killed in the crash, their sister said. She said
her sisters were heading to Lagos to attend a wedding.
Others killed in the crash included at least four Chinese
citizens, two Lebanese nationals and one French citizen, officials