October 24, 2005

Nigeria recovers air crash victim remains

By Tume Ahemba

LISSA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Recovery teams gathered human
body parts in plastic bags and prepared to excavate a
smoldering crater on Monday left by a Nigerian passenger plane
that crashed killing all 117 people on board.

Investigators are working on the theory that the Boeing 737
nose-dived into a marsh north of Lagos on Saturday night and
most of the fuselage and victims of the crash were now buried
beneath the impact zone.

"The plane nose-dived, the wings blew off, but the main
body of the plane is buried underground," said Ibrahim
Farinloye, a spokesman for the National Emergency Management

"We are trying to remove the debris from the ground."

Dismembered and burned body parts, fuselage fragments and
engine parts were strewn over an area the size of four football
fields around Lissa village, but much of the plane and many
bodies appeared to be missing.

Aviation Minister Babalola Borishade said he had asked
foreign construction companies to help dig out the crater,
which was still emitting a pungent smoke on Monday morning.

Fingers, part of a foot and other unidentified pieces of
human flesh were still visible amid mangled metal and personal
papers at the crash site on Monday. Six recovery workers
collected body parts in plastic bags.

Relatives picked over the wreckage for any sign of their
loved ones.

Sony Enemoh, whose brother George was on the passenger
list, said he found his brother's clothes at the site.

"I don't believe that this was an accident. Look at
people's clothes all over the place without bloodstains on
them. We picked the dress our brother was wearing when he
traveled and there is not a single drop of blood on it," he


Bellview Airlines flight 210 lost contact with the control
tower three minutes after take-off from Lagos en route to Abuja
in a heavy electrical storm.

The pilot made a distress call shortly afterwards,
indicating a technical problem, a presidency source said.

It took emergency services 15 hours to locate the crash

The black box containing vital information from the plane's
flight deck has still not been recovered, the minister said,
contradicting a Punch newspaper report quoting police as saying
it was already found.

Borishade said two forensic experts were expected to come
from the United States to help identify human remains.

A government statement released late on Sunday said all 111
passengers and six crew were killed and declared three days of
national mourning for the dead.

The tragedy was compounded by the death of President
Olusegun Obasanjo's wife Stella, 59, who died on Sunday after
cosmetic surgery known as a "tummy tuck" in Spain, local media

The route the airliner was taking is heavily traveled, with
dozens of flights each day between the port of Lagos -- one of
the world's biggest cities -- and Abuja in the heart of
Africa's most populous nation.

A U.S. military officer, a top official of the Economic
Community of West African States, a Nigerian presidential aide,
two Britons and a German were believed to be on board,
diplomats and airline officials said.

Aviation analysts said the fact the aircraft was 24 years
old may have been a factor in the crash, although they also
pointed to the weather as a likely culprit. Many asked why
there was so much confusion and delay in finding the crash

Officials had at first identified a crash site 150 km (100
miles) further north in Oyo state, deploying helicopters and
cars full of emergency workers only to find nothing there.

Bellview Airlines is a privately owned Nigerian airline and
is popular with expatriates for its previously unblemished
safety record. The airline resumed flights to Abuja on Monday.

(Additional reporting by Tom Ashby in Lagos)