Uncommon heroism – The Nation

  • We salute the courage of the pilot of the ill-fated helicopter that crashed in Ikeja

Easily, the most striking takeaway from the crash involving the Bell 206-B111 helicopter in Lagos at about 12.17 p.m. on August 28 was the uncommon heroism demonstrated by the pilot, Captain Ernest Chika, during the tragic incident in which he and two other crew members lost their lives.

The late captain’s selflessness and courage in considering the lives and safety of others even at such a dire moment are remarkable. He deserves commendation and posthumous recognition.

Yet, there are a number of pertinent takeaways from the unfortunate occurrence. One of these is that our urban planning authorities should, as much as possible, ensure that take-off and landing facilities for aircraft are located away from densely populated residential and commercial areas.

Again, according to Akin Olateru of Nigeria’s Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), the agency did not utilise drones in its preliminary investigation of the incident because it has not been licensed by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to use the equipment, even though the approval process is ongoing. Although he stated that the use of drones is not essential in this case given the limited area of the crash, it is noteworthy that the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) reportedly used its drones to capture graphics of the accident scene.

As one of the critical agencies in investigating air accidents, the process of certifying the AIB to use such vital equipment as drones should be sped up. The prompt response and professional collaboration among the various agencies – AIB, LASEMA, the police and Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC) in the rescue effort is commendable. It is noteworthy in this regard that, according to Olateru, the AIB is working on having a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with LASEMA and the Nigerian Navy on harmonious disaster rescue collaboration. This is the way to go.

We commend the crowd control effort of the rescue and law enforcement agencies at the accident scene that attracted large numbers of people. However, there is the need for intensive public enlightenment to sensitise Nigerians on the necessity of staying away from such accident spots when disasters occur to allow rescue agencies do their work without impediment and enhance the chances of saving lives.

There have been increasing incidents of helicopter crashes in the country in recent years and the relevant authorities should initiate efforts to find out any recurring causal factors and consider possible remedies. While a Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Mr John Haryana, died in a helicopter crash in Jos in 2012, a former National Security Adviser (NSA) to the president, General Owoye Andrew Azazi, and the governor of Kaduna State, Mr Patrick Yakowa, lost their lives in another helicopter crash in Bayelsa State the same year.

In August 2015, an aircraft belonging to the Nigerian military crashed at the Ribadu Cantonment in Kaduna shortly after taking off from the Nigeria Air Force base in the city, and in February, 2016, a chartered Bristow helicopter flying into Lagos from Port Harcourt with 13 persons on board plunged into the lagoon. Also, in February, 2019, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and members of his entourage narrowly escaped death when the helicopter conveying them crash-landed in Kabba, Kogi State.

Although preliminary reports indicate that the helicopter involved in this latest accident was in good condition and airworthy while the crew had valid operating licenses, we urge the authorities to thoroughly carry out stipulated investigative processes to discover the causes of the accident so that corrective measures can be taken to forestall future occurrences.

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