“Bodies were burnt beyond recognition” – Eye-witnesses recount the last moments of crashed helicopter
Naval pilots – Commander Murtala Daba and Lt. Adeyemi Sowole – tried in vain to land the helicopter which crashed on Saturday at Okoroba community in Nembe Local Government Area, Bayelsa State.
Governor of Kaduna State, Mr. Patrick Yakowa; the former National Security Adviser, Gen. Owoye Azazi, and two of their aides died alongside the two pilots.
Eyewitnesses said the pilots appeared to have sighted a space at the swampy mangrove, few metres to the crash site, and made some efforts to land the ill-fated helicopter.
In an unclear circumstance, the helicopter was said to have attempted going up again but in the process, its blades hit one of the palm trees surrounding the area and it came crashing.
It was learnt that Yakowa’s mobile telephone was intact as it kept ringing after the crash.
“When we brought the body out, we started hearing sounds of phone ringing from the left side of his pocket.
We later discovered that calls were coming to the telephone and it could be from concerned persons but no one answered,” a security source, who pleaded anonymity, said.
When The PUNCH visited the site, wrecked and burnt parts of the chopper were found littering the area.
The swampy mangrove filled with tall trees and vegetation is located few kilometers to the Okoroba community, off the Ogbia Nembe waterways.
The personal effects of the deceased had been removed from the scene and their charred remains evacuated by security operatives and officials of the National Emergency Management Agency.
An eyewitness, who identified himself as Anthony Marcus, told The PUNCH that a farmer close to the area saw the helicopter as it crashed.
Marcus, who led our correspondent to the crash site, said the farmer raised the alarm that attracted other villagers to the difficult terrain
“When we got there, there was smoke everywhere. But we saw the legs of Kaduna State Governor. The legs were not burnt and part of his traditional attire was intact. We knew him through his attire. But other bodies were burnt beyond recognition,” he said.
He added, “I was at the burial ceremony when the chopper took off. It didn’t take off normally and it was flying very low.”
But it was learnt that some top military officers recovered the black boxes of the helicopter to determine the real cause of the tragedy.
It was also learnt that the bodies of the deceased were conveyed to Ogbia, waterside Saturday night shortly after the rescue team located the site and moved to the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa, under the cover of darkness.
– The Punch