Officials: No survivors from crash

Nigerian gov't reported Sunday more than half of passengers may have survived.

passenger jet 88 (photo credit: )
passenger jet 88
(photo credit: )
The Nigerian government reported Sunday that more than half of the passengers may have survived the Bellview Airlines crash on Sunday morning. Abilola Oloko, a spokesman for Oyo state where the plane crashed Saturday after leaving Lagos, said that over half of those on board had survived. But he later asserted that "the latest reports coming to us say that all the people on the plane died." He cited confusion at the crash scene for the conflicting reports, which couldn't be immediately verified. It was still unknown whether the aircraft actually crashed or whether the pilot managed to execute an emergency landing. A number of senior Nigerian government officials and an army general were apparently among the passengers aboard. Lagos police Spokesman Bode Ojajuni said search teams located the downed jet in Oyo State, at a crash site 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of the city of Lagos, from where the plane departed on Saturday. "Our men have spotted the wreckage of the aircraft," said Ojajuni, without giving further details. The Boeing 737 aircraft lost contact with the control tower five minutes after taking off from the international airport in Lagos at 8:45 p.m. (1945 GMT) on Saturday, said Jide Ibinola, a spokesman for the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria. Military helicopters began immediatly to search for the missing passenger plane. Pilots issued a distress call before the plane disappeared from radar about 24 kilometers (15 miles) west of Lagos over the Atlantic Ocean, state television reported. Those aboard included at least 108 passengers and six crew, Ibinola said. Their nationalities were not immediately known. Ibinola said the craft was headed to the capital, Abuja, on what was supposed to have been a 50-minute flight. Bellview is a privately owned Nigerian airline that mostly operates a fleet of mostly Boeing 737s on internal routes and throughout West Africa. Bellview's first began flying about 10 years ago and has not suffered a crash before. There was no word on whether the incident was terrorist-related. Nigeria has never come under international terror attack, but the United States closed its consulate in Lagos for two days in June after what officials said was a phoned-in terror threat. Nigeria, with a population of 130 million people, is roughly split between a mainly Muslim north and a Christian-dominated south and sectarian violence has broken out sporadically. In 2002, Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network claimed responsibility an attempt to shoot down an Israeli charter airliner in Kenya with shoulder-fired missiles.