Bristow Helicopter: Why Cause Of Crash May Not Be Out In Years

Bristow-Helicopter-2-CopyTHAT six persons lost their lives in the Bristow Helicopter crash in Lagos on Wednesday is no longer news. That the black box that would help the investigators from the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) to arrive or adduce what was responsible for the crash has been found is also no longer news.

What is news is that Nigerians will not know the root cause of the accident in a matter of days, even with the black box found. This is because final reports of many plane and helicopter crashes in the past took years before they were made public.

There had been four accidents involving Bristow Helicopter in Nigeria. The first was in February 1991 and the report of the investigation by AIB was published on its website or made available in 2008. In that accident, there were nine casualties and four survivors. The company also experienced another crash in August 2007, in Eket, Akwa Ibom, the result of the findings by AIB was made available in 2015; the third was in July 2011, the findings of the cause of the accident was also made available in 2015. The last involving Bristow Helicopter was last week in Lagos, where six people died and another six survived.

The General Manager of AIB, Public Affairs, AIB, Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, in a chat with The Guardian on Friday, said that the agency has recovered the black box, which is the latest new so far.

When asked whether with the black box found, Nigerians should expect information on the cause of the crash to be made public soon, Oketunbi was not definite. He said, “It is difficult to put a finger on that. There are a lot of other issues that are associated with investigation. So, it depends on what we see along the line. As we continue with the investigation, it depends on the challenges that we encounter.”

He told the reporter to visit his organisation’s website to get details of the causes of past accidents of Bristow Helicopter, before providing that suggestion. His words: “I do not know the exact causes unless I go into records. As I do not know the exact incidents and accidents you are referring to.
If you want to know, check our website, you will see any accident report there, in order to get the details.”

With the recent certifications Nigeria got on both safety and security from international regulators, is the accident not a dent on Nigeria’s rating?

He alluded to a sick person, who visited an hospital and the doctor declared him healthy, only to be down the following day with malaria. “Does the doctor positive assessment say you cannot fall sick? Things can happen, the fact that you have just come out of an MOT, and they say your car is okay, does not mean it cannot have one issue or the other, there are other things that may happen along the line. It is not a perfect system; even in America, we still have crashes.”

The six survivors are now at St Nicholas Hospital, Lagos. Before they were moved there, they got some medical attention and first aids from Folabi Medical Centre, Oworonsoki and Gbagada General Hospital.

The Medical Director of the Folabi Medical Centre, Dr. Olajide Afolabi, gave some insight on what transpired when two of the survivors were brought to his hospital.

Afolabi said that the two people brought in were in conscious state when they were admitted, though they were in pains. He said one of them fractured his leg, an open fracture that was bleeding and fracture of the pelvis.

“The other one just had body pain but with no open body fracture. We were able to stabilise them after providing first aid. For the survivor with no open fracture, you know in this kind of situation, you cannot just assume that there is no fracture, there would be need to do some x-ray to be sure that there are no internal fracture and injury. But on the surface, there are no injuries.”

Afolabi said they were moved to another hospital after spending about seven hours in his care. “Normally, as a company, they would have a place their staff receive medical attention, so, I was not surprised when they wanted to take them to another hospital. Their doctor spoke to me, if they were not in too much pain for movement to another hospital. So, I was consulted before they were moved and it was after I gave approval that an ambulance was brought in, to move them.”

The Folabi Medical Centre boss said that all the agencies and local divers that were involved in the rescue operation should be commended, as the response time was fast.

According to him, when divers brought the two survivors to his hospital, he did not hesitate to accept them, because he felt saving life first, was more important. “At least, it was about saving lives first. Even if the person is not going to pay, providing first aids is important, we are all human being and you cannot see somebody who is bleeding and in pains, and you leave him to continue to be in pain, what are you going to gain from that. After you safe his life, you can now say that he should pay for service.

“We took them to the wards straight before people started coming. That is the way an hospital should operate whether private or public, once it is not a criminal case like gun shot injury. Even in gun shot injuries, you are suppose to save life first, though, you have to let the police know. But an accident that is not an everyday type or occurrence, it demands magnanimity from all.”

Attempts to get details from St Nicholas Hospital on the state of the survivor were not successful. One of the numbers provided on the company’s website was called and a lady picked it. He asked the reporter to come over to the hospital, as information could not be provided on phone. On getting to the hospital, the front desk officer said that they could not provide the information being sought. She asked the reporter to call the person he interacted with. So another call was made to the line, a different lady picked it and handed it over to a man, who said that the only information that he could provide is that the survivors are all still alive and responding to treatment.

He said he could not provide additional information, because he is not the doctor attending to the survivors and the doctors are not available to speak to the reporter.

When The Guardian visited the vicinity of the accident, the environment was devoid of the push of the first and second day of the incident. The rush to have a glimpse of the scene of the accident and the rescue operation had disappeared probably because the rescue operation has ended and the relics of the helicopter taken away. The local sand dredgers and boat crafters were, however, seen carrying on their businesses with no sign something negative happened just two days back.

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