Coroner declines Accident Bureau’s request in Dana crash inquest

DANA Air plane crash site

The Lagos coroner did not deem it necessary to call the AIB’s witness.

A Lagos coroner, Oyetade Komolafe, on Thursday turned down requests by the Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, to invite one of its consultants to the ongoing inquest on the victims of the June 3 Dana Air plane crash.

According to the Chief Medical Examiner of Lagos State, John Obafunwa, during his cross examination at the last sitting, AIB consultant, Kunbi Banjo, a professor of Anatomical Pathology, had tried to dissuade the state from conducting postmortem examinations on all the victims of the June 3 Dana Air disaster. Instead, Mrs. Banjo had asked the team of pathologists to restrict their examination to only the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot.

The AIB vehemently denied the claims during Thursday’s inquest.

Chinedu Anene, AIB’s counsel, requested that Mrs. Banjo, a pathologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, be invited to state her account of events.

“From Prof. Obafunwa’s testimony, there were assertions of what the AIB did or did not do and what somebody said or did not say,” Mr. Anene, who also represented the Aviation Ministry and Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, said.

“We have not been able to refute, challenge, or corroborate the testimony. And we do not expect her (Mrs. Banjo) to go to the pages of newspapers to defend herself. It will be a contempt of court,” he added.

Obi Okwusogu, counsel to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, added his weight to the request, stating that the pathologist be invited “in the interest of justice.”

“I hope that the court has not concluded that Prof. Banjo be excluded (from giving witness),” said Mr. Okwusogu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. “I consider that her evidence will be very important to this court and the country as well,”

Mrs. Banjo’s efforts to dissuade the pathology team earned her an exclusion from the medical team who eventually went ahead to perform postmortem examination on the over 150 corpses.

While he was being cross examined on Thursday, Mr. Obafunwa admitted that the Dana crash investigation was his first shot at a large scale postmortem examination but it wasn’t Mrs. Banjo’s first.

“I was informed she was involved in a helicopter crash up north in which two or three people died,” he said, adding, “I’ve not seen the report. I don’t know exactly what she did.”

Another senior advocate, Bolaji Ayorinde, while supporting Mrs. Banjo’s invitation said that the inquest could benefit from her experience in air accident investigations.

“Unlike the eminent prof. who is doing this for the first time, even though on a large scale. Let her come, she may be able to throw some light,” Mr. Ayorinde said.

Mr. Komolafe, the coroner, turned down the requests.

“I don’t think the witness will add any value to the inquest,” he said.

“We are concluding. The only witnesses remaining are the Dana (Air) witness and Prof. (Obafunwa). We don’t have any intention of extending. Everyone has been given a chance to call their witness, if they have failed to do that, it’s their business,” Mr. Komolafe declared.

The coroner adjourned till April 18 and 19 for the continuation of Mr. Obafunwa’s cross examination.

Oscar Wilson, Dana Air’s Director of Flight Operations, entered the witness box next. He had earlier, repeatedly, failed to attend the inquest for his cross examination,

Mr. Wilson stated that the AIB had admitted making some errors in their interim report on the Dana Air accident.

The AIB report stated that Peter Waxtan, the American pilot of the ill-fated plane, was employed by the airline in March, 2012, began “line operations” in late May and had accrued over 120 hours before the crash.

“That is not correct,” Mr. Wilson said.

According to Mr. Wilson, a commercial airline pilot flies 100 hours in one month, four hours a day, and two compulsory consecutive days off every week.

“He (Mr. Waxtan) started making commercial flights in May. Prior to the incident, he had been flying for about one month on his own,” said Mr. Wilson.

“We brought it up with the AIB and they said they made a mistake in that statement, that there was an error in the figures,” he added.

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