Nigerian air crash probe ends without answers

  • Monday, November 14, 2005 - IOL
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Lagos - Nigerian and United States air accident investigators ended their inspection of the site of an airliner disaster on Sunday but still have no idea why the plane crashed and killed all 117 people on board, an official said.

Recovery teams have yet to find the flight's data recorders, three weeks after Bellview Airlines flight 210 from Lagos to Abuja lost contact with air traffic controllers and plunged into a cocoa grove minutes after take-off.

"We couldn't find the black box. Nothing has been found which indicates the cause of the crash," Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesperson for the Nigerian federal government's National Emergency Management Agency, told AFP.

"The US experts will continue to work with the little, little part of the aircraft that we found," he said, referring to a team of American investigators from both the US government and the manufacturers of the ill-fated Boeing 737.

'We couldn't find the black box'
Asked to comment on Nigerian press reports that local experts were beginning to take seriously the idea that the jet was brought down by a bomb attack or sabotage, Farinloye said simply: "Nothing is ruled out."

On October 21 the crowded passenger airliner took off on a scheduled domestic flight between Lagos and Nigeria's capital Abuja in a powerful electric storm. Air traffic control lost contact three minutes later.

Almost 24 hours afterwards, Nigerian television journalists found the wreckage of the 24-year-old two engined aircraft on the outskirts of the farming village of Lissa a short drive north of Lagos.

Wreckage and dismembered corpses were spread over a wide area and in some cases buried deep in the ground by the force of the impact. Witnesses said that the jet appeared to have exploded in mid-air prior to plunging to earth.

More than 900 people have died in Nigeria over the past 12 years in more than 30 aviation accidents.

The idea that the jet was brought down by a bomb attack
Since last month's fatal crash one plane has been damaged while landing on Lagos's badly maintained runway and another has aborted its take-off from Abuja after sucking a bird into its jet engine.

International airlines have threatened to cancel their lucrative Lagos flights unless the government improves safety at Lagos, where only one runway is serviceable and where ground radar is turned off at weekends.

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