10 worst plane crashes involving Nigeria

By Emmanuel Ogala

On Monday, the Federal Government inaugurated a committee to investigate the June 3, crash of a Dana MD-83 passenger jet which killed 159 people. The committee has six weeks to submit its report. While the country awaits the finding of the panel, we look back and present you with details of the worst air crashes in Nigeria’s history.

Here is a list of the 10 worst plane crashes in Nigeria’s history.

1. July 1991:

261 people died after a McDonnell-Douglas DC-8 aircraft flying hajj pilgrims to Sokoto on behalf of Nigeria Airways, crashed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in the worst accident in the history of commercial aviation in Nigeria.

The Nigeria Airways  flight took off from Jeddah runway but shortly after take-off, at 2000-3000 feet, problems with the cabin pressure were reported. These reports were quickly followed by a burst tire and loss of hydraulics. The aircraft lost control and crashed in flames while trying to return.

It was the worst accident involving a DC-8 and the second worst accident in Saudi Arabia at the time.

The root cause of the flight was blamed on human errors at the Nigerian aviation system.

“The aircraft was signed-off as fit for flight, in an unairworthy condition, by the operating flight engineer who had no involvement in the aircraft servicing,” investigations later revealed.

2. January 1973:


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176 people died after a Boeing 707 chartered by Nigeria Airways to fly pilgrims back from Jeddah to Lagos crashed in Kano airport.

Bad weather at Lagos had forced the crew to divert to Kano. The aircraft touched nosewheel first, and then collapsed along the runway centreline. Two crew members and 23 occupants were rescued alive.

It was the worst accident involving a Boeing 707 at the time.

3. September 1992:

All 158 occupants died after Lockheed C-130H Hercules operated by Nigerian Airforce crashed near Lagos.

After takeoff one engine failed, followed by a second engine shortly afterwards. The crew tried to ditch the fully-laden plane in the Ejigbo canal, but then a third engine failed as well. The Hercules crashed nose-down into the swamp. The exact number of casualties is uncertain. But at least 150 Nigerians, 5 Ghanaians, 1 Tanzanian, 1 Zimbabwean, and 1 Ugandan were involved.

It was the worst accident involving a Lockheed C-130 at the time.

4. June 2012:

The recent Dana plane crash which killed 153 occupants. A McDonnell Douglas MD-83 passenger plane, 5N-RAM, operated by Dana Air was destroyed when it crashed into a residential area of Lagos, Nigeria. All 146 passengers and seven crew members were killed. At least, six victims have been found inside the buildings that were hit by the plane.

It is currently the third  worst accident involving a MD-80.

5. November 1996:

144 people died after a Boeing 727 operated by ADC airline en route from Port Harcourt to Lagos crashed in Ejirin, near Lagos, killing all its occupants.

The aircraft crashed after it lost control during an evasive action maneuver. The  pilot’s attempt to avoid a head-on collision with another flight failed. The aircraft crashed and disintegrated on impact.

“The untidy traffic separation by the radar controller” was the immediate cause of the crash, investigations later revealed.

It was the 8th worst accident involving a Boeing 727 at the time.

6. October 2005:

117 people died after a Boeing 737 operated by Bellview Airline crashed near Lagos. The Bellview flight 210 took off from Lagos at 20:35 for a domestic flight to Abuja. Tower lost radio contact with the flight about three minutes after takeoff. The next morning, the wreckage was found about 30 kms north of Lagos.

Bad weather was blamed for the crash.

It was the seventh  worst accident involving a Boeing 737-200 at the time.

7. December 2005:

108 people, mostly students of Loyola Jesuit College in Abuja,  were killed after a McDonnell-Douglas operated by Sossoliso  Airlines crashed while landing at the Port Harcourt airport. Two occupants were rescued alive.

The primary cause of the accident was blamed on the weather but the immediate cause was  “the crew’s decision to continue the approach beyond the Decision Altitude without having the runway and/or airport in sight,.” an investigative report said. Contributory causes were dysfunctional runway lighting and poor airport design.
It is the current fourth worst accident involving a DC-9-30.

8. October 2006:

97 people perished after a Boeing 737 operated by ADC Airlines crashed near the Abuja airport shortly after takeoff.

The ADC Airlines flight departed Lagos on a scheduled domestic flight to Sokoto with an intermediate stop at Abuja.

Immediately after takeoff from the Abuja airport, the Boeing 737 contacted the ground, broke up and caught fire in a corn field. A woman working on the field was reportedly killed after being struck by debris from the crash.

The primary cause of the crash was bad weather but the immediate cause was the pilot’s refusal to acknowledge prevailing weather conditions.
It is the 15
th worst accident involving a Boeing 737-200.

9. November 1969:

This was the first major plane crash in Nigeria after independence. 87 people perished after a Vickers VC-10 operated by Nigeria Airways crashed in Lagos.

The Nigeria Airways VC-10 was on a flight from London to Lagos with en route stops at Rome and Kano. On the last leg of the flight, the VC-10 was making a straight in runway 19 approach to Lagos when it descended below the normal approach path and struck trees. The aircraft crashed and caught fire.

10. May 2002:

72 people died after a BAC One-Eleven jet operated EAS, on a flight from Jos to Lagos via Kano, crashed shortly after take off from the Kano airport.

“Shortly after departing Kano, the aircraft reportedly stalled. It came down in the heavily populated district of Gwammaja about half a mile from the airport on the outskirts of Kano. It sheared roofs from two-story concrete homes and sliced a mosque in half as it broke apart and burst into flames. Some 23 houses in Gwammaja area were destroyed, along with a school and the mosque” Aviation Safety Network reported.
Prior to the accident, the plane had been reportedly grounded for 52 days because of engine problems. it crashed ten hours after another engine, from another grounded plane was fitted into it.

After the crash, the aviation Ministry issued a ban on all aircraft in Nigeria, older than 22 years.


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