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A YEAR AFTER FLIGHT 992

A YEAR AFTER FLIGHT 992


Dana Air Flight 992 was a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft making a scheduled commercial passenger flight from Abuja to Lagos, Nigeria. On Sunday, 3rd June 2012, the aircraft crashed into a furniture works and printing press building in the Iju-Ishaga neighborhood of Lagos. The crash, believed to have been caused by dual engine failure and subsequent forced landing, resulted in the deaths of all 153 people on board, as well as approximately ten deaths and an unknown number of injuries to people on the ground.

It is the deadliest aviation accident involving a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 and the second-deadliest involving an MD-80 in general behind Inex-Adria Flight 1308. It is also the second-deadliest accident on Nigerian soil, behind the Kano air disaster.

Investigations have confirmed that the inability of the pilot to turn on the fuel pumps of the ill-fated Dana Air flight led to the failure of the two engines and the eventual crash.

The captain of the aircraft, Peter Waxtan, an American, who was already due for holiday on the day of the crash and who had his flight ticket to travel to the United States on the day of the crash, was making his last flight to Lagos from Abuja when the plane crashed.

Reports indicated that 17 minutes into the flight, Waxtan noticed problems with one of the engines of the aircraft and a little later, the second engine of the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft went off and it lost altitude before it crashed a few minutes to landing at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.

 

The MD-83, operated by Dana Air, lost power from both engines while approaching the Lagos airport last June and slammed into an apartment building, killing at least six more people on the ground. Although investigations into the accident is still ongoing, a  report published in The Wall Street Journal showed that the accident was likely caused by the crew’s failure to properly monitor fuel flow and turn on certain fuel pumps, according to people familiar with the joint investigation by the US and Nigerian officials. That would result in both engines shutting down almost simultaneously from lack of fuel. No other significant problems were discovered with the engines or other systems of the aircraft, the officials said, and the 22-year-old plane had plenty of fuel on board to reach the airport.

Partly fed by that fuel, the crash sparked an intense fire that raged for nearly a day and compromised the flight-data recorder. So investigators had less data to rely on than is usual in modern jetliner crashes and are still working on the final wording of the report. The preliminary focus on pilot error could be toned down, according to two people familiar with the details.  The cockpit voice recorder, which survived intact, showed the pilots spent the last 25 seconds unsuccessfully trying to restart the engines. A preliminary report issued last year by Nigeria’s Accident Investigation Bureau did not say why the engines shut down.  From the transcript of the conversation between the air traffic controllers and Waxtan, the aircraft lost power from both engines while approaching the Lagos airport and crashed into the residential building at Iju/Ishaga.

The then Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, confirmed that it was a human error that caused the crash, adding that about 80 percent of air accidents are caused by human error. “We believe the truth is coming out. We know it is human error. It has been confirmed that it was not engine failure; it was not maintenance issue or oversight issue, or airspace problem but human error. The captain did not follow standard procedure. He did not open the pumps. It is called flame out and that was why he reported that there was no response from the throttle…he forgot to open the fuel pump,” Demuren said in an interview..

As at last month, the lead insurer on the Dana Airline account, Prestige Assurance confirmed that 81 relatives of crash victims had received the initial $30,000 as at December 1, 2012, adding that the remaining 70 per cent of the claims would be paid to them when they meet the necessary claims conditions, including presentation of valid letters of administration from the state government.

None of the victims’ families have received compensation in full including the man who claimed he has submitted a letter of authority empowering him to administer the estate of his late daughter.

the payment of the initial $30,000 compensation to families of the crash victims ran into trouble when multiple relatives started laying claims to the benefit of some victims. Many Nigerian men are married to more than one wife and in some cases the second and other wives are secret wives and mistresses who have children for them.  There are cases where these secret wives also lay claims to the benefits payable on the lives of the deceased.

Related to this, is the case where there are distrust between the wife or husband of the deceased and the victim’s families.  This usually results to multiple claims on the life of a deceased passenger.  When this happens, the insurers should do all the necessary to ensure that the rightful person is paid or it may have to pay the claim more than once.

A necessary condition for the settlement of the aviations claims to relatives of victims of the air crash is the presentation of a valid letter of authority by the claimant.  This is actually the root of most of the allegations and counter-allegations on the Dana Claims.

Letter of Authority is a legal document empowering any holders to administer the estate of the deceased and as such with such a letter, the holder is qualified to claim the benefits payable on the life of his relative.

This document is usually issued by government and as usual it is not something that one could walk into a court room or any government office and come out with it.  This is issued after series of investigations to ensure that the personal is the lawfully appointed or rightful administrator of the deceased estate.

Most relatives of the victims of the accident have not been able to obtain this document from government talk less of presenting it to the insurers.  This is a major cause of delay in settling the claims

The insurance industry may have earned a bad name and suffered an image crisis as a result of complaints of unsettled commitments with regard to the accident even when it is clear that the industry may have played its part creditably in the face of suffering by relatives of the victims of the air disaster.

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