A few women sobbed and mothers held tightly to their kids at the bank of the lagoon as fishing boats arrived with two corpses from the helicopter crash on Wednesday.
The bodies – the white pilot and his black co-pilot – brought ashore at about 11 a.m. on Thursday marked the end of rescue operations, according to emergency rescue officials.
A back pack, life jacket, and a dark book were some of the items recovered along with the corpses. But the carcass of the helicopter remained at the bottom of the lagoon.
A Bristow Helicopter flying from an oil rig in Escravos, Delta State, with two crew members and ten passengers crashed into the Lagos lagoon on Wednesday afternoon.
Six people were rescued and had been taken to the hospital while while four dead bodies were recovered by Wednesday night.
Michael Akindele, General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, said that the manifest of the flight to confirm the identities of those on-board was still being expected.
“But the rescue mission, as far as we are concerned, with all relevant agencies here present, and even the local divers, I must commend the marine police and LASWA for a wonderful job done, even the merchant navy,” Mr. Akindele said.
“All hands were on deck, like we promised yesternight, till this hour, just about ten minutes ago, we are able to recover two more fatalities.
“And like I have directed, they will be taken to the Mainland General Hospital mortuary to be added to the four previously there for further investigation.”
Bandele Onimode of the National Emergency Management Agency said that there is no timeline for the recovery of the helicopter since search and rescue is not a time bound operation.
“But I can tell you the recovery exercise is over. That is first phase. The second phase which should be anchored by the Accident Investigation Bureau, they are here, will commence immediately,” said Mr. Onimode, South-West Coordinator, NEMA.
The cause of the helicopter crash is still unknown and the AIB said they are yet to begin an investigation.
Clement Onyeyiri, an AIB investigator, said that claims of a technical fault are still early.
“The wreckage of the aircraft is still at the bottom of the lagoon, we are yet to recover it,” said Mr. Onyeyiri, Senior Investigator in charge of the investigation.
“As soon as we get to it, we will remove the recorders, play them, download them so that we will be able to understand and know what to tell you guys.
“As of today, there was an accident. The nature of the accident? Nobody can tell you.”
‘A hard work’
Almost a dozen local divers collaborated with emergency rescue agencies in the search and rescue operations.
Other agencies present at the site include the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Lagos State Waterways Authority, and the Nigeria Police.
Adedayo Hassan, a diver, said that the rescue operation was a “very hard work.”
“Yesterday, we were in the middle of the water when the incident happened,” said Mr. Hassan.
“I rushed there to rescue some people. The helicopter was smoking and turning before it crashed into the water.
“We were the first person to get there. When we got there, we rescued six people yesterday. We went back and rescued four people, the four people were dead. We discovered that there were two left in the helicopter so we now went there this morning to bring them out.
“We went there, we cut the belts and some ropes they used to tie themselves. They were at the front of the helicopter. We broke the louvres of the helicopter.”
There were visible cuts and bruises on the hands and legs of some of the divers.
Haruna Ishola, their leader, said that they stopped working late last night and continued this morning.
“When they went there, we were picking them. First of all we first picked two, they were alive, another four, alive” said Mr. Ishola.
“After that, another four dead corpse. Yesterday night they now told us they were 12 in population, we now went back and recovered the remaining two.”
‘Will of God’
Efforts to ascertain the medical condition of those taken to the hospital on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Officials at the General Hospital in Gbagada where some of the survivors were taken declined to speak to journalists.
Binta Bello, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, described the accident as the “will of God.”
“Just as I was coming to Lagos, I read in the paper that a United States military helicopter had an accident just yesterday. So these things are natural occurrences but we sincerely regret it,” said Mrs. Bello.
“We have to wait for the outcome of the investigation to see what actually happened, what was the main cause of the accident. Otherwise, regulatory agencies are doing their work.”