How much can we stop tragedies?

Recent Bristow helicopter crash at the Lagos Lagoon at the Oworonshoki end of Third Mainland Bridge.

Recent Bristow helicopter crash at the Lagos Lagoon at the Oworonshoki end of Third Mainland Bridge.

SIR: Could the recent Bristow helicopter crash at the Lagos Lagoon at the Oworonshoki end of Third Mainland Bridge which claimed six lives out of the 12 people on board have been prevented? I doubt.

That same day of the Lagos chopper tragedy, a United States helicopter carrying six Marines crashed in Nepal killing all the six people on board. The following week a single-engine plane crashed in Hicksville in the U.S. leaving the pilot dead, and his passenger injured. The day following this, an Indonesian airliner crashed with 54 aboard with no survivors.

Tragic crashes have been happening since Icarus flew with his waxed feather wings too close to the sun. There is nothing much we can do to stop them. The black boxes for the Lagos crash have been found, but I am afraid this may not mean much. This will not be the first time we have found black boxes after crashes. Yet, there have been crashes after.

We will definitely remember the statistics of all the other crashes in the past. But as I still repeat, that won’t prevent future aircraft crashes from happening. Death is the fate of all human beings, sooner or later, and air crashes are by no means the major means. Halfway through its voyage, the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, resulting in the deaths of over 1,500 people.

There is no amount of preventive risk-taking measure that can change what was destined. An old man told me his son who works at Chevron was already seated in that ill-fated chopper in Lagos, until he was asked to leave for the “ogas” as it was “not his turn,” to fly.  In the other sense it was not his turn to “go.”

We will certainly set up enquiries. It is all right to ask what could have gone wrong. It is quite all right to task our brains for better ways to “prevent” it from happening. These are all in line with living. But we must accept that no system can prevent all possible outcome of every possible circumstance. No system is perfect. No plan is foolproof. Even if air travel, especially commercial flight is considered the safest. No safety measures will ever anticipate every situation.

We always try to prevent the risks we know about, but will always be surprised by a risk we never considered. The risk is never anticipated and we are never prepared. And we will never be. Our minds look backwards to the past, but the risks are in the future. Even if an incident like this will never happen again, which you know is very unlikely, there will be some unknown event that will shock us in the future. That is the irony of our being.

It is appointed unto man to one day return to his maker, but woe unto that means by which he will return. If you take more risks your life is a time bomb. One octogenarian said he would never take risks. When he wants to go he just wants to switch off the light.

We pray for those who died in that crash, and commiserate with their families. Those that are gone cannot come back no matter the prayers for them. Perhaps we will understand it better by and by through these lyrics of Jim Reeves: “This world is not my home I’m just a-passin’ through…” and …”I’ll fly away to a land where joy shall never end. I’ll fly away…”

Cosmas Odoemena, Lagos



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