Pilot dies as two NAF F-7NI aircraft collide in Abuja

• Buhari Mourns Dead Air Force Officer • Air Chief Orders Investigation • He Would Be Sorely Missed, Say Colleagues

Wreckage of one of the two Nigeria Air Force (NAF) F-7NI jets that crashed after a mid-air collision in Katampe Hills in Abuja…yesterday. Inset: Dead pilot of one of the ill-fated NAF jets, Squadron Leader Bello Mohammed Baba-Ari

Two F-7Ni aircraft belonging to the Nigeria Air Force (NAF), yesterday, crashed around Katampe Hills in Abuja.The airplanes reportedly collided with each other during a rehearsal for Nigeria’s 58th independence anniversary celebration holding on Monday, October 1.It was, however, gathered that the pilots were able to eject before the crash, but one of them lost his life in the process.

Confirming the report, the NAF spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, in a short statement sent to journalists, said: “I wish to confirm an air incident involving two Nigerian Air Force aircraft taking part in the rehearsals for the 58th Independence Day celebrations.” Daramola also confirmed the death of one of the pilots, who ejected from one of the aircraft, but did not release the identity of the personnel.

According to him: “It is with a heavy heart that I regretfully announce that one of the pilots, who successfully ejected from one of the F-7Ni aircraft that crashed earlier today (yesterday), has passed on. May his soul rest in peace. Additional details on the incident will be communicated later.”He added that the pilot died due to complications from injuries sustained upon impact on the ground, adding that there were no civilian casualties.

Another eyewitness added: “It’s carelessness. My people and I we were there when it happened. They were close to each other and we thought it was the sound of a wire from the electric pole. It was not up to three minutes that this thing happened. “If you go there, you will see the parachute being dropped by them. The other one went there and crashed himself and he died instantly, because he was unable to loosen himself from the parachute. That is why he landed straight. “They were coming too close to each other and they clashed into each other.”

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has commiserated with the family of the dead pilot/officer, saying he was saddened by the tragedy, just as he wished the two surviving co-pilots speedy recovery.The remains of the dead officer, Squadron Leader Bello Mohammed Baba-Ari, were buried yesterday around 5:30 pm, as the family members, including his father and wife were flown to Abuja to identify his body.

Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, alongside the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, visited the two surviving co-pilots, Squadron Leader A.A. Manguin, and his other colleague, named as Flight Lieutenant Andy, both from the NAF base in Makurdi, who are both receiving treatment at a medical facility owned by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) in Abuja.

The two air force officers were in stable condition when The Guardian visited the health facility at DIA along with the presidential aides. The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar, was also at the hospital to receive Kyari and Shehu and briefed them on the mishap.Many of the dead pilot’s colleagues described him as very friendly and easy-going, saying he would be sorely missed.Abuja residents have been held in awe with daily aerial maneuvers of the NAF fighter jets preparatory to the celebrations. Abubakar has instituted an air crash investigation to determine the remote and immediate causes of the incident.

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