FG, families present as NAF buries seven plane crash victims

The bodies of the seven Nigerian Air Force (NAF) officers, who died in Sunday’s plane crash, were committed to mother earth at the National Cemetery, Lugbe, Airport Road, Abuja, on Thursday.

The personnel died in the Beechcraft King Air B350i aircraft, which crashed a short distance from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, after reporting engine failure.

The deceased are the Captain, Fl. Lt. Haruna Gadzama; Fl. Lt. Henry Piyo (co-pilot); Flying Officer Michael Okpara (Airborne Tactical Observation System specialist); Warrant Officer Bassey Etim (ATOS specialist); Fl. Sgt. Olasunkanmi Olawunmi (ATOS specialist); Sgt. Ugochukwu Oluka (ATOS specialist); and Aircraftman Adewale Johnson (onboard technician).

At the funeral service were the Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi; Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Salihi Magashi (retd.); the Chief of Defence Staff, Maj. Gen Lucky Irabor; the Chief of Army Staff, Ibrahim Attahiru; Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao, and the family members of the deceased as well as members of the National Assembly.

The CAS, who got emotional and broke down several times during his address, described the deceased as some of the finest officers in the service and prayed God to console their immediate families.

He said, “I must confess that even at this moment, the Nigerian Air Force is still in palpable shock and grieving very deeply upon this loss of our gallant and courageous heroes, in whom we had so much confidence, with our expectations now suddenly and painfully cut short.”

Amao saluted the supreme sacrifice of the young men, whom he said gave their lives in the defence of the peace “which we all enjoy and often take for granted.”

He explained that the airmen flew their quota of ongoing surveillance missions in the North-East, North-West and more recently in the North-Central over Niger State and its environs in connection with the efforts to secure the release of the staff and students abducted from the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State.

Mrs Sola Oluwasola, the elder sister of airman Olawunmi, said the deceased was on leave when he was recalled by his superiors for an operation.

She said the victim left behind three children, including a one-year-old son.

According to Oluwasola, the deceased had been taking care of the entire family members, particularly their aged mother.

She recalled that only two persons were shortlisted by the Nigerian Air Force in the entire Ekiti State when Olawunmi joined the military in 2001.

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