Abilola Oloko, a spokesman for Oyo state where the plane crashed on Saturday after leaving Lagos, had said that more than half of those on board had survived. But he asserted on Sunday 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.
Lagos police spokesman Bode Ojajuni said search teams found the crashed Boeing 737 aircraft, operated by Nigerian-run Bellview Airlines, near the town of Kishi, about 200km north of the city of Lagos, from where the plane took off.
The plane lost contact with the control tower five minutes
after taking off from Murtala Muhammed international airport in Lagos at 8.45pm on Saturday, said Jide Ibinola, a spokesman for the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria.
There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash or
whether flight-data recorders had been found at the scene.
Search teams found the plane
The flight is popular among Nigerians and expatriates shuttling between Lagos and the capital, Abuja.
Representatives of many countries gathered at the Lagos airport to find out whether any of their citizens were on board the flight. Each stressed that it was a routine matter and that they had no news themselves.
Airline officials said 117 people were on board – 111 passengers and six crew members.
Ibinola said the craft was headed to Abuja on what was supposed to have been a 50-minute flight. There was no immediate indication the crash was terrorism-related.
President Olusegun Obasanjo’s office said in a statement that he was overseeing search and rescue operations.
The Nigerian leader – grieving for his wife who died early on Sunday after a surgical procedure in Spain – asked “all Nigerians to pray for all those aboard the plane and their families”, the statement said.
Officials said earlier that the military had mounted a nighttime helicopter search off the West African coast as state television reported that pilots issued a distress call before the plane disappeared from radar about 24km west of Lagos over the Atlantic Ocean. There was no explanation for why the wreckage was found inland.
Bellview, one of about a dozen local airlines plying Nigeria’s skies, is a privately-owned Nigerian company that operates a fleet of mostly Boeing 737s on internal routes and throughout West Africa. Bellview began flying about 10 years ago and has not suffered a crash before.
In May 2002, an EAS Airlines jet ploughed into a crowded neighbourhood after takeoff at the airport outside the northern city of Kano, killing 154 people in the plane and on the ground.