DANA CRASH: Police blunder at Dana air crash inquest infuriates coroner

The coroner at the inquest into the causes of the June 3 Dana Air crash reeled out harsh words for officers of the Nigeria Police Force after a police witness denied knowledge of a statement he supposedly deposed under oath.

A docked Olusola Agoi, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, while giving evidence of the events at the air crash site stated that his mission at the site was merely an observatory one.

However, the first paragraph on his statement of oaths deposed to at the Magistrate Court described him as “the investigative police officer detailed to investigate the Dana air crash”.

While answering questions from counsels, Mr. Agoi insisted that he was given orders to go to the site and “just observe”.

“I did not write this (statement), the lawyer did,” said Mr. Agoi, as he frantically tried to wash his hands off the written statement.

“There was no directive that we should investigate those that died in the building. I was never directed,” Mr. Agoi said.

Cyril Ejiofor, the police counsel, told the coroner that it was “a typographical error”.

Oyetade Komolafe, the coroner, was visibly angered by the police officers’ antics.

“This is your deposition by oath… We can deal with you with this. You are bound to answer any question thrown at you,” said Mr. Komolafe.

“I put it to you that you have lied to this court under oath”.

Both police officers fell silent

“That’s why people hate the police. You see things and you cover it,” Mr. Komolafe continued.

“I’m not happy with this. We are not in a court of law to find out who is guilty,” he said.

For the first time since the inquest began, a family member of one of the victims spoke.

“What I just witnessed is a very painful thing,” said Tito Omawunmi, who said he lost two of his relatives to the crash.

“He (the police officer) has lied under oath and he has no business spending one second more on the witness box,” he added.

Mr. Komolafe, however, decided to overrule the police officers’ actions and continue with the inquest.

Victims alive after crash

Also testifying at the inquest, John Obafunwa, Chief Medical Examiner at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, said that some of the passengers on the ill-fated flight died from inhalation of toxic fumes after the crash.

“They must have been alive to inhale the smoke,” said Mr. Obafunwa, a professor of Forensic Pathology.

Mr. Obafunwa cited fume inhalation and multiple injuries as the causes of more than half of the deaths.

“Fractures to the skull, damage to the brain, punctures in the lungs, severe blood loss. All of these things can individually cause death,” he added.

Mr. Obafunwa also stated that the test results of the DNA tests carried out for unidentifiable bodies would be available next week.

“We asked for samples from parents, siblings, and offsprings. These are what we’d use to compare victims’ DNA profile and confirm the identity,” Mr. Obafunwa said.

Haphazard response

The inquest, which began last month, continues to shed light on the uncoordinated and haphazard operations of the nation’s emergency rescue agencies.

Testimonies given by the Fire Service, the police, and other emergency response teams showed that although relevant agencies arrived minutes after the crash, lack of appropriate equipment delayed rescue efforts.

Julius Berger, a private construction company, had to bring in her cranes and other heavy duty equipment, over an hour after the crash, before rescue and response could be undertaken.

In a deposition to the inquest signed by Tanko Ashang, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) stated that crowd control was a major issue that hampered rescue efforts at the accident site.

“Another clog in the wheel was co-ordination of the various stakeholders. Regular joint simulation exercises and informal meeting between members of various organizations will engender more effective collaboration in future operations,” said Mr. Ashang, NEMA’s legal adviser.

“A de-briefing meeting will soon be organized for all stakeholders by NEMA in order to gain from lessons learnt from this operation for better performance in future,” Mr. Ashang added.

 


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