11 August 2012

Nigeria: For Families of Dana Air Crash Victims - Another Round of Agony

Two months after the ill-fated Dana plane crash that killed 153 passengers and crew on board as well as unidentified, the families of the victims are forced to endure another round of agony as they collect the bodies of their loved ones.

At a time when most of the families of victims of the Dana Air crash were settling down to living without their loved ones, they were thrown back into another round of agony. The announcement by the Lagos State Government that 132 bodies of victims of the plane crash are ready for collection by their relatives after the Deoxynubonucleic Acid results (DNA) in the United Kingdom reopened a wound that was gradually, but slowly healing for many of the families.

A list with names of bodies which have been identified was released last Wednesday stating the scheduled dates of their release from the morgue and the procedure for the collection.

Mr. Sanusi Abubakar, whose daughter Inna Kaltum was among the victims on board the flight, spoke to our reporter. "We are still waiting for her corpse to be released. It ought to have been on the 1.35pm Arik flight to Abuja, but up till now we have still not heard anything from them. We are hoping it will be released."

On his views regarding the response from the respective authorities so far since the incidence, Abubakar said they are generally inefficient. "So far it seems it is only the Lagos State Government that is keen on seeing things done properly. They are the ones updating us on the events and giving press conferences to inform us on the progress being made. Governor Fashola has shown interest in the situation and seeing that families receive the bodies of their loved ones. The aviation industry doesn't seem to be doing anything.

"It is really annoying, but if this is what it takes to get her back, then there is nothing we can do but to wait. I don't know what it takes to do the DNA and why it is taking this long.

"In all of this I think we should thank God that we are not into water transport in the same way as we are into road and air transport, because most people who travel by water are usually not documented. When accidents occur authorities are not accountable and they run away.

"I hope that Nigeria is learning lessons on how to manage accidents and also console families. I hope they are also seeing the need to pay more attention to transportation and avoid accidents," he said.

Widow of one of the victims said the incident is still very fresh in her mind. "Although I support that things should be done right once and for all, I still think it has taken too long to sort things out. The wait has been a very painful one and most unbearable. It makes the incidence still very fresh in our minds. Two months to wait for the DNA test results is too long. At the moment they still have not released his body. A relative is there with documents they asked for.

"Maybe if they brought the expatriates here instead of taking the samples abroad it would have been faster. Since the whole thing happened I have not gone anywhere. I have not even set foot outside my gate. I don't say what they have done is wrong, it has simply taken too long and somehow makes it seem like they don't care about the emotional troubles and anxieties families and loved ones feel at a time like this."

Tony Njoku, a relation of one of the victims of the Dana plane crash, yesterday decried the untidy process of identification and compensation of the crash victims by the airline and hospital authorities.

Family members and the public had welcomed the decision of the authorities for the DNA instead of conducting a mass burial for the victims, most of whom were burnt beyond recognition.

Njoku, who lost nine family members in the ill-fated flight, denounced the entire arrangement for identifying the victims and claiming compensations. "We are getting bogged down by the whole issue. It has been very terrible; there is so much confusion over there in Lagos."

Njoku, who also said his family is yet to recover any of their members for burial, said he decided to leave everything to relatives in Lagos. "I have left everything to my relatives in Lagos. You may also inquire from the medical director in the Lagos hospital. They have the bodies and the results," he said in an emotion-ladened voice.

About 153 persons died in the Dana plane crash in the Iju-Ishaga suburb of Lagos shortly after departing Abuja on Sunday June 3.

So far, 69 days after the crash, 132 bodies had been identified with 16 yet to be identified. Some relatives complained that when they went to the mortuary, they could not recover the bodies of their loved ones. They also complained of having to wait endlessly to be attended to.

The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris had told relatives of the crash victims that "we are going to be releasing another 132 bodies which had been identified today. We have gotten some of the results of the DNA analysis from the United Kingdom. The experts have revealed the results and we felt it's necessary to brief the victims on the processes and documentations needed to claim the bodies."

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