It was a gory sight yesterday at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Ikeja, when no fewer than 115 corpses, some dismembered, others burnt beyond recognition, were brought in from the site of the Dana plane crash at Iju, Lagos, to be identified by their relations.
By 9 a.m, several bodies both identifiable and unidentifiable were being carried out of ambulances at the Lekan Ogunsola memorial house of the hospital with many of the family members, relations and friends wailing and scampering to identify their own.
The corpses, which were recovered from the wreckage, were brought in a fleet of ambulances intermittently from the crash site to the hospital.
Investigation by Vanguard revealed that relations of the crash victims were at the hospital long before dawn, waiting anxiously in grief and tears to identify their loved ones.
Among the corpses were pregnant women, babies, and the elderly who were brought in bags dripping blood all over.
A youngman, who spoke in anonymity, told Vanguard that he had gone to identify his sister, her daughter and his cousin who recently relocated to Nigeria from the United States of America and were coming to visit the family from Abuja.
He said the victims had been very excited to come to Lagos to see their family members whom they had not seen for long only to be involved in the unfortunate accident.
He said: "If only they had known, they would have just stayed back in the United States instead of relocating only to meet their untimely death."
A Chinese, Mr. Stone Shi, Deputy Managing Director, China Civil Engineering Construction Company, said about six Chinese were involved and four were from the company.
Wreckage of Dana Airline which crashed in Iju Isaga on Sunday. Photo:Joe Akintola, Diran Oshe and Lamidi Bamidele,
Shi, who appealed to the government to quickly facilitate recovery of the bodies said: "Whether Nigerian or Chinese, it is necessary to conduct the DNA assessment to enable families bury their own. "We want to carry our people home because already we have reported to our government and families. We want to bury their bodies in their home town in China."
Other relations of the deceased who spoke to Vanguard expressed disappointment that no official from Dana Airline was on ground to give them information regarding the crash.
Alhaji Sambo Tanko, a relation to one of the victims, and a former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Ibrahim Damchida, said "There's no government in this country. I'm just expressing my pain. This moment, I'm feeling too bad.When you want to talk, don't mention government. Forget it. We have no government in this country. First, we were made to understand that that the German engineer grounded that plane."
But the Indian owners of the plane said they will lose funds; they'll lose resources if they don't fly. ?And their management went and bribed the aviation authority? and they allowed it to fly.
"Now that they have killed our people, what will happen? What do they expect us to do? Oh, compensation? Please! The pain is there; let us mourn our dead. For God's sake, the person (Ibrahim Danchida) I'm talking about here is a royal father, a very important citizen of this nation. This man trained me and he is still training my children.", he added.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital LASUTH, has opened up a helpline comprising psychologists, psychiatrists, psychologists and ?the public relation department to offer counselling to victims and relations of the deceased.
When contacted, the Chief Medical Director, LASUTH, Prof. Wale Oke who spoke to Vanguard, on the helpline also disclosed that the state government is making moves to conduct DNA assessment for close relations of the diseased for possible identification of bodies that have burnt beyond recognition.
Already, 48 bodies had been taken to the hospital mortuary while 38 more who were brought in had been transferred to Mainland Hospital, Yaba. As the corpses arrive LASUTH, some were transferred to Mainland General Hospital mortuary which LASUTH authorities said is to ease the challenge of identifying the corpses some of which were burnt beyond recognition.
In a chat with newsman, Oke explained that LASUTH was the designated center of operation, therefore all recovered bodies arrive LASUTH first, before pathologists determine which stays in LASUTH morgue and those that will be transferred to Mainland hospital mortuary.
He disclosed that corpses that can be identified were deposited at LASUTH mortuary, while those burnt beyond recognition were being transferred to Mainland hospital mortuary where they will remain until pathological analysis of their tissues will be used to identify them.
On their emergency preparedness, Oke said:? "We were on ground as soon as we heard there was a plane crash. We were able to get a group of doctors such as surgeons, psychiatrists, orthopaedic surgeons, general surgeons, pharmacists, blood banks, haematologists because we realized that they might be bringing in people with trauma .
"We organised about 20 to 30 doctors,? even the medical students came out to assist us. We were anticipating that per chance some of them might be brought here,since LASUTH is the closest Teaching Hospital to the scene of the crash. We were also in contact with the Health Service Commission, HSC, because of the general hospitals around the crash site such as Agege and Ifaiko general hospitals.
?" LASUTH was used as a key centre of operation. About 30 to 40 minutes after the plane crash, the ambulance brought eight charred bodies, one of which was identified because the identity card fell off his pockets and they were taken to the mortuary.? Later, two other ambulances came in with four people who were in the house the plane crashed into.
"? There was one man who has no scratch at all. There was a little girl who had a little scratch.? They were both discharged yesterday to go home. We had one young boy who was struck in the back by an object. Obviously falling from the sky, I guess it might be from the plane.? And there was another man who had a fracture or dislocation of the left, upper humerus.
"This morning, two other people were brought in, one sustained a head injury and the other minor injury.? We were told also that 35 other bodies were brought in, they are charred and unrecognizable. These bodies have been taken to the Mainland Hospital mortuary. Now the collateral damage, that is the people that live in the two story building where the plane crashed into, they were all brought in alive.?
"They sustained mild and moderate injuries.? Four of them are still here, the girl and the other man have been discharged and their relations . Now what we are trying to do as an addition is to set up a help plan.? I have been in communication with the State health Permanent Secretary, Dr. Femi Olugbile and Dr. Rotimi Coker, psychiatrists and psychologists in line with our Public Relation Officer to set up a counter that can counsel relations and victims of the unfortunate plane crash.
"His Excellency, Governor, Babatunde Fashola is very particular about identifying each corpse. So the ministry have swung into action trying to communicate with laboratories within and outside the country and we are also appealing to relations of the deceased to come so that we can identify immediate or very close relations whose blood can be taken to match the tissues obtained from the bodies of the unfortunate deceased and that is the situation so far,"he said.
On the payment, he said," the people that are brought in the first 24 hours will be treated free of charge, that has been the government position.
As at press time,48 bodies had been deposited at the LASUTH mortuary while the remaining recovered bodies burnt beyond recognition were transferred to Mainland hospital which is said to have bigger chambers in its mortuary.
At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital [LUTH], there was equally a high level of preparedness as the news of the plane crash broke.
It was gathered that the Chief Medical Director with a team of consultants waited till 9pm Sunday night in case an emergency comes from the crash site,but none came.
When newsmen visited LUTH's Accident and Emergency Ward, none of the patients on admission were from the plane crash. When contacted,Chief Medical Director,LUTH,Prof Akin Osibogun,said "so far no victim of the plane crash has been brought here"
Confirming what Oshibogun said, Head of Morbid Anatomy,Prof. Kumbi Banjo said that so far no corpse from the plane crash has been deposited in LUTH's mortuary.