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Offline oneluv

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Independence tragedy: Air Force chief orders probe as pilot dies during rehearsals




The Nigerian Air Force’s aerial display rehearsals for the October 1 Independence Day celebrations turned tragic bad on Friday when two F-7Ni fighter jets collided midair, resulting in a crash on Katamkpe Hill along the Kubwa Expressway, Abuja.

The disaster led to the death of one pilot, while two others with severe injuries were hospitalised.

The Chief of Air of Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, immediately ordered an investigation into the air crash, a statement by NAF confirmed.

It was learnt that the deceased officer, Squadron Leader Bello Baba-Ari, who was a trainer pilot flew the combat fighter jet while the hospitalised officers flew the trainer jets.

It was gathered that the 32-year-old pilot, a squadron pilot at the Air Task Force, Operation Lafiya Dole, in the North-East, had taken off with two others in three fighter jets at about 12.30pm from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

The planes collided minutes later around Katamkpe Hill.

It was learnt that the air tragedy necessitated the pilots to eject from their aircraft, which subsequently crashed on the hill, but Baba-Ari died due to complications from injuries sustained upon his impact on the ground.



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Offline oneluv

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A competent source at the NAF headquarters, Abuja, explained how the incident happened, noting that the two surviving pilots were receiving medical attention in a NAF medical facility.

He said, “The speed of a fighter jet is usually very fast such that immediately you take off as a pilot, you have to begin to negotiate how you will land. When he took off, he slowed down in the air so that the two others could catch up with him. But somehow, they ran ahead of him and one of them then collided with his.

“The two other pilots used parachutes to negotiate their way out of the jet but he, as a senior pilot, wanted to sort out the jet and bring it to safety. There was also a problem with his parachute. So he crashed on the ground with the jet.”

When one of our correspondents visited the scene on Friday, smoke billowed from the site, and two NAF Mi-35M helicopters were drafted to evacuate some the pilots and some items from the site.

An eyewitness, who gave his name only as Miracle, attributed the death of the NAF officer to the failed deployment of his parachute.

He explained that he saw the jet crashing down and the air officer struggling as his aircraft hit the ground and burst into flames.


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Offline oneluv

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He said, “I watched the jets coming down and the pilots struggling to eject from the aircraft. Two officers successfully ejected from a jet, but the third one was not so lucky because the parachute did not open (deploy), so he landed on the ground and died.

“The other two narrowly escaped being roasted in the flame that engulfed their crashed aircraft, their escape and survival was nothing short of a miracle.”

The deceased officer, who was once acting Commander at the Air Defence Group, Makurdi, Benue State, was buried at about 5pm at the Gudu Cemetery in Apo area in a sober occasion attended by his father, relations, the COAS, Abubakar, and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin.


L-R: Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar; Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; and father of the late Squadron Leader, Ahmed Baba-Ari, during the burial of the Squadron Leader, Bello Baba¬Ari, who died in the air force fighter jet crash at Gudu cemetery in Abuja… on Friday. Photo: Olatunji Obasa
The NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, confirmed that the COAS had ordered an investigation into the incident.

He said, “I wish to confirm that an air incident involving two Nigerian Air Force aircraft taking part in the rehearsals for the 58th Independence Day Celebrations occurred in Abuja. It is with a heavy heart that I regretfully announce that one of the pilots who successfully ejected from one of the F-7Ni aircraft passed on.

“The Chief of the Air Staff has instituted an air crash investigation to determine the remote and immediate causes of the incident.”

Buhari’s CoS, SGF, others attend pilot’s burial

The remains of Baba-Ari, who hailed from Yobe State, was laid to rest at Gudu Cemetery, Abuja, the News Agency of Nigeria reported.

Aside the COAS, others who attended the burial were Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and Olonishakin.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, hundreds of officers and men of the Nigerian Army, as well as friends and relatives of the deceased, were also at the burial.

Senior military officers and colleagues of the deceased could not control their emotions as they wept while the remains of Baba-Ari was committed to mother earth.

Abubakar said a board of inquiry had been set up to unravel the cause of the crash of the military jets.

Buhari commiserates, sends delegation to survivors

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday commiserated with the Nigerian Air Force on the air accident which involved two fighter jets in the fleet in Abuja.

According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President paid tributes to the gallantry of the squadron leader.

He also wished the two other wounded officers quick recovery.

In a condolence message delivered on his behalf by Abubakar, he assured the families that having paid the supreme sacrifice, the nation would not forget him.

He prayed that God would grant the soul of the departed eternal rest and assured family members that the country would not abandon them.

Representatives of the President also visited the two other officers, Squadron Leader Abatuba and Flight Lieutenant Ambi, in the hospital and conveyed the President’s good wishes to them.

The President wished them quick recovery and assured them that the hearts of Nigerians were with them and were praying for them as they make a quick return to good health.



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