By Evelyn Usman, Bose Adelaja & Monsur Olowoopejo, with Agency reports
Lagos—Eleven persons yesterday escaped death after a Bristow 5B BJQ helicopter en-route Lagos from an off-shore location in Port Harcourt ditched into the Atlantic Ocean.
The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, reports that the helicopter was carrying nine passengers and two crew members when the incident happened.
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) confirmed the incident.
Mr Sam Adurogboye, spokesperson of NCAA, in a text message, said there was no casualty as the 11 persons on board were rescued after the chopper ditched into the Atlantic Ocean.
“It happened 70 nautical miles off Lagos. They were returning from their off-shore location called ERA. Nine passengers and two crew on board were all rescued,” he said.
The AIB, in a statement also confirmed the crash.
According to the statement; “A S76 C++ helicopter marked 5N-BQJ belonging to Bristow Helicopters, which departed ERHA Platform en-route Lagos was ditched into the Atlantic Ocean 95 nautical miles into destination at about 10:20 am local time.
“All the eleven peoples on board, including two crew members were rescued alive.
“Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB has commenced investigation into the occurrence. Details will be communicated to you later,” it said.
Similarly, the General Manager of LASEMA, Mr Michael Akindele, in a statement, said emergency responders including three RRS search and rescue Helicopters, Nigeria Navy, Air Force and others were deployed for the operation.
“The helicopter ditched inside the ocean, however 11 souls on board are alive, no casualty,” he said.
Akindele said Agip, Mobil and Shell oil companies helped with the provision of speed boats to facilitate the rescue operation.
He said Bristow Helicopter also provided landing boat for the evacuation of the survivors.
The Media Consultant to Bristow Helicopters, Mr Cornelius Onuora, said the incident was not a crash but a controlled ditching, which was an emergency landing of a helicopter on water.
Onuora said the pilot observed that there was a technical issue with the helicopter and he decided to land it earlier than scheduled.
Also, the Flag Officer Commanding, FOC Western Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Ralph Osondu said “MV DIJAMA launched two of its boats to rescue all 11 people in the helicopter.
Rear Admiral Osondu said, “MV DIJAMA was the first to get to the scene. It happened 40 nautical miles from Igbokoda, Ondo State. The helicopter had nine passengers and two crew members. All were rescued and handed over to a speedboat, SURFER P2621, which took them ashore to the nearest hospital in Ondo State.”
Crash forces Reps to adjourn proceedings
Meantime, news of the crash yesterday, forced House of Representatives’ Committee on Aviation to adjourn its activities indefinitely.
According to reports, the committee was conducting the defence of the 2016 budget by agencies and departments in the aviation sector when it ended the session abruptly.
Chairman of the committee, Nkiruka Onyejeocha (PDP-Abia) announced that the budget defence could not continue as a result of the incident.