Search for Nigerian plane crash victims ends

Official defends airline in face of public outrage

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LAGOS, NIGERIA — Rescue officials in Nigeria said Wednesday they have ended their search for bodies at the site where an airliner crashed into a densely populated area, killing all 153 people aboard the plane and a still-unknown number of people on the ground.

Workers cleared away the remaining pieces of the wreckage of the MD-83 aircraft Wednesday from Iju-Ishaga, the neighborhood about five miles from Lagos’ Murtala Muhammed International Airport where the Dana Air flight went down on Sunday.

Emergency workers there have recovered 153 complete corpses as well as fragmented remains, said Yushau Shuaib, a spokesman for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency. It is unclear if the fragmented remains represent less than a dozen victims, or dozens.

Officials now plan to survey the neighborhood to find who remains missing after the plane smashed into two apartment buildings, a printing business and a woodshop, Mr. Shuaib said.

Authorities have discussed using DNA to identify the dead. Samples would have to be sent abroad for testing.

The cause of the crash on a sunny, clear Sunday afternoon remains unclear. The crew radioed the tower that they had engine trouble shortly before the plane went down.

Authorities already have collected the flight voice and data recorders, and plan to send them abroad for analysis.

No ‘suicide mission’

Public anger has risen in the country against the airline since the crash.

On Tuesday, the Nigerian government indefinitely suspended Dana Air’s license to fly in Nigeria, Africa’s most population nation, as a safety precaution, said aviation ministry spokesman Joe Obi.

A Dana Air official on Wednesday defended the commercial airline’s actions leading up to the crash, saying its chief engineer was aboard the doomed flight.

Francis Ogboro, an executive who oversees Dana Air, told journalists that the company’s employees wouldn’t have embarked on a “suicide mission” by flying on an unsafe plane.

Mr. Ogboro also said the plane showed no faults or problems Sunday morning before it crashed.

A statement posted to the company’s website described the airline as “professionally managed,” saying the flight’s captain had logged 18,500 flight hours, with 7,100 hours on an MD-83.

Dana Air said the plane that crashed had its last safety inspection on May 30 and was certified to fly by Nigerian regulators.

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