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Lawyers Demand Answers As Authority Works With Dana Air to Re-Certify Licence

Aviation Experts Representing Crash Victims’ Families Concerned About Flight Safety Issues


International aviation lawyers representing the families of victims of the Dana Air plane crash in Lagos which killed 163 people this year are demanding answers as to why authorities may allow the airline to fly again before the cause of the accident and the extent of any safety breaches have been  determined.

The victims’ families are also angry at hearing of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s (NCAA) re-certification exercise before the conclusion of the investigation into the cause of accident and are questioning how they can be assured of passenger safety on any future Dana Air flights.

Their legal representatives, the Aviation Attorney Group, a team of international and Nigerian aviation law specialists led by British law firm Irwin Mitchell, is seeking to provide answers about the causes of the accident, hold those responsible to account, provide for the payment of full and fair financial compensation to families who lost loved ones and to improve flight safety in Nigeria.

Now, the specialist lawyers are demanding to know on what grounds the NCAA may re-certify the airline’s operating licence for commercial flights at this point in time and they are seeking the release of key information relating to the cause of the crash.

Jim Morris, an expert aviation lawyer at Irwin Mitchell and former RAF Boeing pilot, said: “The news of the NCAA’s re-certification exercise aimed at restoring Dana Air’s licence for commercial flights has caused considerable distress to the families we represent as the cause of the accident is still not yet known.”

“This news also comes at a time when many of the families are still grieving and have only recently received the DNA results of family members tragically killed in the crash that have enabled them to finally bury their loved ones.

“They want to know what information the NCAA is using to determine the reasons for the accident and how they appear to have come to the conclusion that Dana Air is fit to return to commercial flying.

“The families are also angry that the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria has recently named Dana as the best domestic carrier for 2011.

“Some family members of victims believe the airline should never be allowed to fly again but as the NCAA has decided to work with Dana Air to re-certify its licence, the families deserve to know how decisions will be made on the key issue of whether the airline is safe to fly.”

Onyinye Okocha, who lost her husband in the crash, said she was shocked that Dana could be allowed to fly again so soon. She commented: “The hasty re-certification is rather insensitive considering the fact that we are still reeling from the pain of our loss and some of the bodies of the victims are yet to be buried.

“One would have thought that the priority of the authorities would be to see that beyond all reasonable doubt our air space is safe.

“For the relatives the crash is so real, I lost my husband and my daughter will never know her father as she was just 15 months when the crash took place. A promising Young man was cut off at his prime and I’m left to raise her alone at just 26 years old.

“Like all others directly affected I want to know what actually went wrong, I do not want this to be swept under the carpet. This is one crash too many and in my opinion a needless loss of precious lives. I want to know what caused the crash and if anyone is culpable and I do not want anyone else to go through the pain I am experiencing.

“In future I want to be able to clearly explain to my daughter what happened to her father and tell her we got to the root of the matter and his blood was not shed in vain, that it caused a ripple effect and brought about a positive change.”

Gbade Ayoola, who lost his brother in the disaster, said: “I personally believe that the NCAA should have waited for the report of the incident leading to the crash and also made it public before going ahead to re-certify the license of Dana Air. By so doing a lesson or two would have been learnt by the industry in mitigating future incidents.”

Irwin Mitchell has written to the NCAA demanding answers and has specifically requested a copy of the transcript of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) for the accident flight.  Ultimately, lawyers believe that all the data used by the NCAA to make its decision should be shared with the families so that they can understand the facts on which the decision is based.

The law firm is also liaising with the London based lawyers acting for the airline’s insurers to progress legal claims or the families who they represent and ultimately ensure they all receive full and fair compensation. The law firm is also arranging for the immediate provision of advance financial payments to provide important interim financial support at this difficult time.

The McDonnell Douglas MD-83 plane operated by Dana Air crashed 5.8 miles north of Lagos airport in June this year killing 163 people including everyone onboard. A preliminary report in July by the Accident Investigation Bureau indicated that the captain of the plane had reported dual engine failure, but did not say what caused it. 

The report also confirmed that the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) had been destroyed, meaning that the only real time evidence of what happened is contained in the CVR which recorded the last 30 minutes of the flight.  Unfortunately the preliminary report did not provide a transcript of the CVR, meaning that the key evidence to determine the chain of events that lead to the tragedy has not been shared. 

The Aviation Attorney Group hopes that the CVR transcript will be released quickly so that the Nigerian aviation industry can learn lessons from the Dana Air Tragedy. The best way to improve flight safety is for the accident investigators to provide prompt and comprehensive reports that contain all relevant evidence. 

Most of those killed in the crash were Nigerians, although the dead included a British woman, a family of six Americans of Nigerian descent, four Chinese, two Lebanese and a French woman.

Irwin Mitchell Aviation Law has over four decades of experience in handling aviation claims for passengers and crew involved in aviation accidents around the world. For more information visit our Air Accident Claims Page or our Dana Air Accident page for more information.