By Kelvin Osa Okunbor, Precious Igbonwelundu and Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt
The Quorum Aviation Bell 206 helicopter, which crashed in Lagos on Friday, flew in from Port Harcourt to position itself for prospective hire and reward otherwise known as charter.
The chopper was flown by the late Captain Chika Prudence Ernest. The Flight Engineer was Clement Ndiok. On board with the duo was Macaulay Brownson, an aircraft fitter.
The six-seater chopper was one of the aircraft in the fleet of Quorum Aviation Limited owned by Mr Abiola Lawal.
Quorum Aviation Limited (QAL) is an Aviation and Logistics air transportation company. The company operates both Rotary (Helicopters) and Fixed Wing.
Lawal, aka Mr Boku, runs an integrated travel and destination management company.
Quorum Aviation was incorporated in 2011 as an indigenous Aviation Logistics company. The company was set up to pursue opportunities in the Rotary business primarily for oil and gas clients as well as VIP charter services.
The company was awarded the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) in 2018 to engage in commercial Aviation services.
‘We have valid air operators’ certificate, insurance cover’
• Lawal…the aircraft owner
Quorum Aviation Limited on Sunday said the helicopter had Air Operators’ Certificate (AOC) and insurance cover.
The airline, in a statement, said: “All our certificates and approvals are current and valid as issued by the authorities following due process.”
A letter by Director, Operations and Training, NCAA, Capt. Abdullahi Maikano Sidi and dated August 2, 2020, shows that the airline’s AOC is valid till November 20, 2020.
The statement went on: “For the avoidance of doubt, Quorum Aviation Limited is a responsible corporate entity that adheres to and complies with all the rules and regulations pertaining to the aviation industry as laid-out in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCAR).
“The company has all the requisite certificates and approvals obtained through a very rigorous process, including inter alia an Air Operator Certificate (AOC), Certificate of Airworthiness (COA) and Insurance. All our certificates and approvals are current and valid as issued by the authorities following due process.”
Pilot breathed for two minutes after crash, says witness
One of the witnesses of Friday’s helicopter crash said the pilot, Captain Ernest Chika, breathed for about two minutes after he was pulled out of the ill-fated chopper.
Mariam Olugbile, a resident of 2, Gafari Balogun Street, who said she was one of those who pulled all three occupants from the crashed helicopter, told The Nation yesterday that Chika stopped breathing two minutes after they brought him out.
• The late Pilot Chika
She added that the helicopter hovered for some time before crashing into the fence of 16A Salvation Road.
Olugbile said people were initially scared to move close to it for fear of explosion.
“I was the one who called 112 immediately it happened. It happened at exactly 12pm but the LASEMA people got to the scene around 12:20 pm. Before they arrived, NEMA officials and one LASTMA officer were already here.
“But when the helicopter crashed, a lot of people rushed near but were afraid of going closer because of an explosion. I gathered courage and moved closer and some other people joined me. That was how we knew they were three people inside.
“The pilot was still breathing. We brought him out and he breathed for two minutes before he stopped. There was an old man beside him who was not breathing when we brought him out. Also, the third man was still alive and we heard he later died in the hospital,” she said.
Friends pay tribute to pilot
A female Facebook user, Shantel Zere Alphonsus, who seemed to have shared a relationship with the late pilot, mourned his sudden exit.
She said: “It is hurting, the pains are much Chika. This is not what you promised me, not this way. I am so helpless. What a harsh way to go. I can’t question God. I pray for your soul, our creator knows best.
“Chika, words can express the pains I am feeling. You promised to come and see me in Jos when you returned from your journey to Lagos just to receive shocking news that you were in a helicopter crash. My goodness! I can’t believe this is happening to me.”
Another friend of the late pilot, Naomi Lengmang, shared an encounter with the late pilot.
She said: “You showed me the cruise button on my Toyota Jeep and taught me how to use it. You made my driving easier, and fun. Missing you son! May God comfort your Mum and Chinwe.”
Timeline of helicopter crashes
A Nigerian businesswoman, her personal assistant and their Filipino pilot were killed in a helicopter crash in. Josephine Oluwadamilola Kuteyi chartered a helicopter to travel from the commercial capital of Lagos to the central Nigerian city of Ilorin in Kwara State. Kuteyi ran a business in the town of Bacita about 124 miles (200 kilometers) away from Ilorin.
The helicopter hired from OAS helicopters crashed in a hilly area outside Ife-Odan in Osun state about 71 miles (115 kilometers) away from its final destination killing all three occupants.
August 31, 2012:
A Deputy Inspector-General of Police, John Haruna, and three others died in a helicopter crash in Kabong area of Jos, Plateau State. The AIB released a report which indicated the medical certificate of the pilot of the Bell 427 Helicopter, with registration number 5NPAL, had expired as of the time of the accident, while the co-pilot was not ‘type-rated on the helicopter.’
The helicopter belonged to the Special Task Force, one of the teams in charge of security in Plateau State.
Akin Olateru, AIB commissioner, also said that the cause of the accident could not be decided due to the investigation that uncovered chains of differences and non-compliance with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations.
On December 19, 2012:
A Nigeria Navy helicopter crashed on Saturday at Okoroba Village, in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa. Other victims of the crash were the governor of Kaduna State, Patrick Yakowa, and four others on board. The six occupants of the chopper were found dead.
On July 14, 2014:
A Nigerian Air Force Mi-35 Helicopter on a training mission has crashed, the Defence Headquarters said. The helicopter crashed due to technical fault at a location South of Bama, Defence spokesperson, Chris Olukolade, said.
On November 10, 2014:
A military helicopter on surveillance mission has crashed in Damare, a suburb of Girei Local Government Area of Adamawa state. A resident, Jamilu Inuwa, said he saw the chopper go down. “The helicopter crashed in Damare,” he said. “I don’t know if it is a military plane or not.”
On August 12, 2015:
A chartered Bristow helicopter, with registration No. 5NBJQ, flying from Port Harcourt to Lagos crashed into Lagos lagoon in the Oworonshoki axis of the city.
On February 2, 2019:
An Augusta AW139 Helicopter, under management by Caverton Helicopters, was involved in a mishap on landing in Kabba, Kogi State as a result of unusual weather conditions.
The helicopter, which belonged to Caverton, was ferrying Vice President Yemi Osibanjo. Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on February 3, 2019 began probe into the crash landing of a helicopter conveying Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Kabba, Kogi State.
The NCAA said the investigation was being conducted by the Accident Investigations Bureau (AIB), the statutory agency saddled with the task of investigating such serious incidents and accidents.