John Adams, Minna
What could easily have become the worst aviation disaster in recent memory was averted Saturday when an aircraft carrying no fewer than 560 passengers returning to Niger State from Saudi Arabia made an emergency landing at Minna Airport.
The near disaster, which a source close to the airport in Minna said occurred at around 5 am Saturday morning, is reportedly a first at the airport.
According to the source, the aircraft, a Max Air Boeing 744 with registration number 5N/ DBK, carrying about 560 Muslim pilgrims returning from the annual Hajj pilgrimage, developed a technical fault, resulting in a forced landing.
The accident caused damage to one of the four engines of the aircraft, the source said, with further damage to a section of the tarmac and other materials when the aircraft skidded off the runway.
Most of the passengers on board were said to be in a state of shock as they rushed out of the aircraft.
None are reported to be hurt or injured.
The exact cause of the accident has not been determined or communicated to the media either by the airline or aviation authorities.
“I have never seen this type of thing in my life, only God saved us from a terrible disaster,” the source, a senior official at the airport, told Daily Sun.
“The fire that would have followed would have spread to all parts of the airport because we don’t have fire fighting vehicles in this airport.”
Daily Sun has also learnt that five officials of the Accident Bureau of Investigation arrived Minna from Lagos to inspect the partly damaged aircraft.
As of the time of filing this report, officials from the airline and the Accident Investigation Bureau were at a closed door meeting.
Public Relations Officer of the Niger State Pilgrims Welfare Board Hajia Hassana Isah, when contacted on the incident, confirmed the story but did not give further details.
Isah, however, said the development would not affect the return journey of the over 2,000 pilgrims still in Saudi Arabia, assuring that the deadline for their return would be met.
No official of the airline was available to comment on the accident, even with reports that the pilot was devastated by what could have become a fatal disaster.