Thursday, August 02, 2012

Coroner Inquest On Dana Flight 992 Crash: Court Invites Aviation Minister

The coroner’s inquest into the June 3, 2012 crash of Dana Flight 992 flight continued today with witnesses from the airline as well as the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB).

The coroner, Oyetade Komolafe, is seeking to establish the ‘cause’ of the ‘unnatural’ death of victims aboard the Dana flight as well as the ‘manner’ of their death. At today’s hearing, Mr. Komolafe interviewed a representative of Dana Airline and an AIB investigator. Tony Usideme, head of the airline’s Corporate Communications, told the coroner that he knew nothing about the cause of the crash.

In an effort to impress the coroner about the airline’s commitment to safety, Mr. Usideme stated that Dana had changed the engines of the ill-fated plane after it suffered a bird strike on April 19, 2010. He remarked that the airline’s decision to completely change the engine, instead of repairing it, underscored a focus on safety. 

Mr. Usideme also defended the airline from critics who had zeroed in on the age of the crashed plane. He contended that the age of any aircraft did not matter as long as the maintenance record guaranteed its air-worthiness. The airline’s representative was, however, unable to disclose the doomed plane’s record of technical hitches or maintenance logs.

Meanwhile, C.E. Diala, the AIB’s director of engineering, told the court that “the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) retained about 31 minutes of the flight progress. Mr. Dialla disclosed that the recordings started about 15:15 hours. Part of the recordings featured Captain Peter Waxton and his First Officer discussing an abnormal functioning of the engine throttle setting as well as an
engine power indicator.

In the preliminary report presented to the coroner, the AIB had suggested that the airplane was mostly destroyed by a post-crash fire. The report disclosed that “the tail sections, both engines and portions of both wings, representing only about 15% of the airplane were recovered from the
accident site for further investigation.” 

The AIB’s engineering director stated that his agency collected some wrecked parts from the crash site so as to reconstruct the plane in an effort to further its investigation. Mr. Diala added that AIB carried out its investigation along with the America-based National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

At today’s hearing, the coroner was curious that Julius Berger, a construction firm, handled the retrieval of the plane’s wreckage. Mr. Komolafe asked why the Aviation Ministry or any of its departments or agencies could not take possession of the wreckage, thus leaving the evacuation
to Julius Berger.

“Does the Aviation Ministry not have this equipment at all?” the coroner asked, and demanded that the Aviation Minister appear before him to provide information on that and other questions. 

Babatunde Irukera, a counsel to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, tried to protect the minister from appearing physically in court, but the coroner demanded her presence by Monday to take questions.

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