Kelvin Osa Okunbor, Precious Igbonwelundu and Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt
The Quorum Aviation Bell 206 helicopter, which crashed in Lagos on Friday, flew in from Port Harcourt to position itself for prospective hire and reward otherwise known as charter.
The chopper was flown by the late Captain Chika Prudence Ernest. The Flight Engineer was Clement Ndiok. On board with the duo was Macaulay Brownson, an aircraft fitter.
The six-seater chopper was one of the aircraft in the fleet of Quorum Aviation Limited owned by Mr Abiola Lawal.
Quorum Aviation Limited (QAL) is an Aviation and Logistics air transportation company. The company operates both Rotary (Helicopters) and Fixed Wing.
Lawal, aka Mr Boku, runs an integrated travel and destination management company.
Quorum Aviation was incorporated in 2011 as an indigenous Aviation Logistics company. The company was set up to pursue opportunities in the Rotary business primarily for oil and gas clients as well as VIP charter services.
The company was awarded the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) in 2018 to engage in commercial Aviation services.
‘We have valid air operators’ certificate, insurance cover’
Quorum Aviation Limited on Sunday said the helicopter had Air Operators’ Certificate (AOC) and insurance cover.
The airline, in a statement, said: “All our certificates and approvals are current and valid as issued by the authorities following due process.”
A letter by Director, Operations and Training, NCAA, Capt. Abdullahi Maikano Sidi and dated August 2, 2020, shows that the airline’s AOC is valid till November 20, 2020.
The statement went on: “For the avoidance of doubt, Quorum Aviation Limited is a responsible corporate entity that adheres to and complies with all the rules and regulations pertaining to the aviation industry as laid-out in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCAR).
“The company has all the requisite certificates and approvals obtained through a very rigorous process, including inter alia an Air Operator Certificate (AOC), Certificate of Airworthiness (COA) and Insurance. All our certificates and approvals are current and valid as issued by the authorities following due process.”
Pilot breathed for two minutes after crash, says witness
One of the witnesses of Friday’s helicopter crash said the pilot, Captain Ernest Chika, breathed for about two minutes after he was pulled out of the ill-fated chopper.
Mariam Olugbile, a resident of 2, Gafari Balogun Street, who said she was one of those who pulled all three occupants from the crashed helicopter, told The Nation yesterday that Chika stopped breathing two minutes after they brought him out.
She added that the helicopter hovered for some time before crashing into the fence of 16A Salvation Road.
Olugbile said people were initially scared to move close to it for fear of explosion.
“I was the one who called 112 immediately it happened. It happened at exactly 12pm but the LASEMA people got to the scene around 12:20 pm. Before they arrived, NEMA officials and one LASTMA officer were already here.
“But when the helicopter crashed, a lot of people rushed near but were afraid of going closer because of an explosion. I gathered courage and moved closer and some other people joined me. That was how we knew they were three people inside.
“The pilot was still breathing. We brought him out and he breathed for two minutes before he stopped. There was an old man beside him who was not breathing when we brought him out. Also, the third man was still alive and we heard he later died in the hospital,” she said.
Friends pay tribute to pilot
A female Facebook user, Shantel Zere Alphonsus, who seemed to have shared a relationship with the late pilot, mourned his sudden exit.
She said: “It is hurting, the pains are much Chika. This is not what you promised me, not this way. I am so helpless. What a harsh way to go. I can’t question God. I pray for your soul, our creator knows best.
“Chika, words can express the pains I am feeling. You promised to come and see me in Jos when you returned from your journey to Lagos just to receive shocking news that you were in a helicopter crash. My goodness! I can’t believe this is happening to me.”
Another friend of the late pilot, Naomi Lengmang, shared an encounter with the late pilot.
She said: “You showed me the cruise button on my Toyota Jeep and taught me how to use it. You made my driving easier, and fun. Missing you son! May God comfort your Mum and Chinwe.”