Nigeria:Wannabe saviour drives car into aircraft

Published on by KANYARWANDA

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 The car is sandwiched under the aircraft.

Wannabe saviour drives car into aircraft
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All 95 passengers on board an Arik Air aircraft headed en route Abuja from Calabar, yesterday, found themselves in a mad rush as they scrambled to get off the aircraft when a car crashed into the plane shortly before takeoff at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport in Calabar.

A rickety salon car, painted blue and white, the official colour pattern of registered taxis in Calabar, ran into the aircraft just as the aircraft doors were being shut, a passenger told NEXT.

A man, who claimed that he is Jesus Christ, emerged from the car after the collision and declared that he had made the desperate move to save the aircraft from an impending crash.

The man, who carried a huge bible and a huge cross, said he was trying to save the aircraft, a Boeing 737 700, and the passengers departing Calabar for Abuja. The man was promptly arrested by airport officials.

Shakened passengers who scrambled out of the plane after an announcement by the captain, were asked to wait for another aircraft which would ferry them to their destination.

"We were strapping in, they were about to shut the door when we heard a loud bang. And then the captain said ‘everybody rush out', so we all rushed out," a lady who was on board the flight with her baby, said. The passengers, who were scheduled to depart by 2.30pm, finally left around 5.30 pm after the airline provided an alternative aircraft.

Arik blames FAAN

The spokesman of the airline, Ola Adebanji, speaking with NEXT, confirmed the incident but said that the airline was not to blame for the accident.

"I can confirm to you that a taxi ran into our Boeing 737 700 aircraft, an Abuja-bound flight. Arik is not in charge of security at the airport. All the airports belong to FAAN and they are in charge of security at the airports," Mr. Adebanji said yesterday.

Mr. Adebanji asked NEXT to direct all questions on the security of the Margeret Ekpo International Airport, Calabar to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

"You can ask FAAN and airport authorities how the taxi beat airport authorities. We don't provide security at the airports," he said.

The frightened passengers re-boarded the new aircraft provided by the airline, but questioned the seriousness of the airport security officials.

"How the taxi managed to get to the aircraft is what baffles me," a frantic passenger, who gave her name as Candi, said in a telephone interview with NEXT.

FAAN's response

The General Manager for Public Affairs in FAAN, Akin Olukunle, confirmed the incident but denied that there were passengers on board the aircraft.

"Nobody was on board the flight. The passengers were yet to board because the aircraft was just arriving from Lagos," Mr. Olukunle claimed. His claim was debunked by the Arik Air spokesman.

"The passengers were on board. In fact, we were about to shut the doors," Mr. Adebanji of Arik said.

The FAAN spokesman further said that the airport authorities could not deter the taxi driver because he was on top speed and crashed through their barriers.

"The guy was running. He was driving an Audi car. He just slammed into the first and second barriers that were guarded by air force officials. He was on top speed," Mr. Olukunle said.

Mr. Olukunle said he would not blame anyone for the accident, but that the police was now investigating the matter.

"The Air Force men arrested the man and the police is now working with them to investigate the matter," he said.

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