Seven Air Force officers die in plane crash, Buhari mourns

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President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed grief over the death of seven Air Force officers in a plane crash on Sunday..

The President,, in a press statement to condole with the Airforce and the bereaved family members of the victims, described the deceased as courageous and dedicated.

The plane crashed while approaching the Abuja airport runway, a spokesman for Nigeria’s Air Force said.

“All 7 personnel on board died in the crash,” Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola said on Twitter.

He added that the Chief of the Air Staff has ordered an immediate investigation into the incident.

“A military aircraft King Air 350 has just crashed short of our Abuja runway after reporting engine failure enroute [to] Minna. It appears to be fatal,” said the country’s aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, confirming the incident in a statement.

In a follow-up communication Sunday afternoon, a spokesman at the Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu, said the “aircraft reported engine failure at time 10:39 and crashed landed on the final approach path of Abuja Runway 22 at time 10:48UTC.”

Odaudu said fire fighters had been deployed to the scene to put out a raging blaze that had engulfed the airplane.

An aviation worker who asked not to be named — citing lack of official clearance to talk to the press — told the Cable News Network (CNN) that he witnessed the crash.

“The crash occurred not very far from the runway. The pilot had tried returning to the runway after taking off,” he said.

The worker said the pilot swerved the plane to its crash site which is in a desolate area. He said the aircraft narrowly avoided warehouses and makeshift settlements around the Nnamdi Azikwe International airport.

President Buhari stated that he is “deeply saddened by the fatal crash of the Nigerian Airforce KingAir B350i aircraft.”

He expressed  “heartfelt condolences to family members, friends and colleagues of those who died.”

He added: “I join the Nigerian Air Force, the military and all Nigerians in mourning the unfortunate loss of our dedicated and courageous personnel, who died in the line of duty. I pray that God will comfort the bereaved families and the nation, and grant the souls of the departed peaceful rest.”

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