On this day, Sosoliso Airlines Flight 1145 from Abuja to Port Harcourt crashed on landing with 110 people on board. Immediately after the crash, seven survivors were recovered and taken to hospitals, but only two people eventually survived. Pastor Bimbo Odukoya (a popular Christian speaker of Foundation of Life Church), who was among the seven initial survivors, died a day after the incident.
59 out of the 60 students of Ignatius Loyola Jesuit College, an Abuja-based secondary school, were among the dead. It was reported that a witness stated that the plane was struck by lightning about 40 or 50 metres from touching down and the fuel in the wing caught fire and it exploded. That claim was however not confirmed by any authorities. Following the crash, President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered all Sosoliso planes grounded.
It was the second air disaster to occur in Nigeria in less than three months, and it was also the company’s first and only fatal accident.
The aircraft, a McDonnel Douglas DC-9 was manufactured in 1973. It entered Nigerian registration on June 12, 2003. It was owned by JAT Airways and operated as Sosoliso Airlines Ltd. The aircraft certificate was released on March 17, 2005 and would have been due for another check on June 27, 2006. It was described as air worthy at the time of the accident.
Wreckage Of the Sosoliso Aircraft
The aircraft departed Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport at 12:25pm UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). The route had a scheduled time enroute of 2 hours and 40 minutes. About 90 miles from the airport, the aircraft contacted the Air Traffic Control (ATC) for initial descent clearance and was cleared by ATC to FL160. The aircraft continued its descent until 13:00 hours when the crew asked ATC for the weather condition at the airport. ATC told the aircraft that there was no precipitation and that a scattered cumulonimbus condition existed. Later on, the crew acknowledged the report.
The aircraft continued to follow its descent profile. ATC later contacted the aircraft and advised that precipitation was approaching the airport. The controller then cleared the aircraft to land at Runway 21, but warned the pilot that the runway could be slightly wet, indicating that hydroplaning was a possibility. The flight crew acknowledged that message. Unable to make out unlit runway through the rain, the aircraft captain called for a go around (missed approach) at an altitude of about 290ft (approximately 120 ft above the ground). That call was made about 100ft below the decision altitude).
The DC-9 then slammed onto the grass strip between the runway and the taxiway. 60 metres from the first impact point, the empennage (tail of the aircraft) struck a concrete drainage culvert, the aircraft then disintegrated and burst into flames. The cockpit and the forward fuselage broke off from its main body and slid along the taxiway, creating a 120 metre trail of wreckage.
The captain was Benjamin Adekunle Adebayo, a 48-year old Nigerian with a total flying experience of 10,500 hours with 1,900 of them on the DC-9. He had his last simulator training at Pan Am International Flight Academy in Miami, USA, on July 7, 2005. The first officer was Gerad Yakubu Andan, a 33-year old Ghanaian with a total flying experience of 920 hours of which 670 hours were on that type of aircraft. He had his last simulator training in August, 2005 with a result of “satisfying”.
The Ruins Of The Plane
Out of the 60 teenagers from Ignatius Loyola Jesuit College, 59 were killed, with Kechi Okwuchi being the only survivor from her school.
Kechi was treated at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa and at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston, Texas, United States.
Kechi later went on to take part in the 12th Season America’s Got Talent in 2017 as a singer, and finished at the competition as a finalist.
The second survivor was Bunmi Amusan (now Bunmi Adams) who was Pastor Bimbo Odukoya’s Personal Assistant at the time. She got married a year later.