The Nigerian Air Force has ordered a probe into the events that led to the tragic collision of fighter jets and death of a pilot during Independence Day rehearsals.
Two F-7Ni fighter jets collided midair around Katamkpe Hill along the Kubwa Expressway, Abuja.
It resulted in the death of one of the pilots, Squadron Leader Bello Baba-Ari
According to a source for the Punch in the NAF, he explained the events leading to the crash
“The speed of a fighter jet is usually very fast such that immediately you take off as a pilot, you have to begin to negotiate how you will land. When he took off, he slowed down in the air so that the two others could catch up with him. But somehow, they ran ahead of him and one of them then collided with his.” said the source
He added: “The two other pilots used parachutes to negotiate their way out of the jet but he, as a senior pilot, wanted to sort out the jet and bring it to safety. There was also a problem with his parachute. So he crashed on the ground with the jet.”
According to a witness on the scene, Baba-Ari’s death was because of the failure of his parachute to deploy.
“I watched the jets coming down and the pilots struggling to eject from the aircraft. Two officers successfully ejected from a jet, but the third one was not so lucky because the parachute did not open (deploy), so he landed on the ground and died.
“The other two narrowly escaped being roasted in the flame that engulfed their crashed aircraft, their escape and survival was nothing short of a miracle.” he said.
Baba-Ari was buried at the Gudu Cemetery in Apo area at around 5pm
The NAF have stated that they have launched an investigation to get to the bottom of the incident.
Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola said in a statement,
“I wish to confirm that an air incident involving two Nigerian Air Force aircraft taking part in the rehearsals for the 58th Independence Day Celebrations occurred in Abuja. 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 passed on.
“The Chief of the Air Staff has instituted an air crash investigation to determine the remote and immediate causes of the incident.”