Airline's license suspended in Nigeria crash; data recorder found

Story highlights

  • Seven U.S. citizens died in the crash, the State Department says
  • Nigerian aviation authorities suspend Dana Air's license
  • 153 bodies have been recovered from the crash site
  • Pilot Peter Waxtan, a former Spirit Airlines captain, joined Dana Air in March

Nigerian aviation authorities suspended Dana Air's operating license Tuesday as torrential rain hampered recovery efforts after a deadly weekend plane crash.

"As soon as we have concluded the recertification of the airline, if they are capable, then their license will be reinstated," said Sam Adurogboye, a spokesman for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

Authorities have recovered the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, which are expected to help investigators determine what caused Sunday's crash that authorities say killed at least 153 people aboard the plane and at least 10 people on the ground.

Rescuers have recovered 153 bodies, including those of a woman and the baby she was clutching. But a downpour and a building on the verge of collapse impeded recovery efforts Tuesday.

Rescuers said they hoped to resume work Wednesday morning.

Map shows location of crash
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Seven U.S. citizens were aboard the flight, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday. Officials were working to notify relatives of the dead.

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Two sisters from Texas, Connecticut family perish

Dana Air's Flight 0992 slammed into a two-story residential building in a densely populated neighborhood of Lagos, Nigeria's largest city.

"The plane pushed the wall of our building in, and it hit everything," said Kingsley Okeke, who was inside at the time. "There was fire everywhere."

The pilot declared an emergency as the plane was on final approach to Murtala Muhammed International Airport, and witnesses said it appeared the plane was having engine trouble, said Oscar Wason, Dana Air's director of operations.

Wason identified the pilot as Peter Waxtan, an American, and the first officer as Mike Mahendra, from India.

Waxtan had joined Dana Air on March 26. He was a captain for Spirit Airlines based in South Florida from 1997 to 2009, the airline said.

He also flew for Falcon Air Express, a charter airline in Miami, CNN affiliate WPEC reported.

Sisters Jennifer and Josephine Onita of Missouri City, Texas, were among those killed in the crash. They were on their way back home after attending a wedding, said their sister, Christiana Onita-Olojo.

Also among the dead were six Chinese citizens who were on the plane, the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria said Monday.

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According to witnesses, the passenger plane appeared to be approaching the vicinity of the airport in Lagos high, its nose tilted upward, when it crashed 11 miles (18 kilometers) north of the runway, hitting the ground tail first, Wason said.

The flight, which had originated in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, crashed at 3:43 p.m. in the neighborhood of Iju Ishaga, according to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

iReport: Images from Lagos

The airplane was 22 years old and had been purchased from Alaska Airlines. It had undergone routine maintenance checkups after every 200 hours of flight, and it had been inspected three days before the crash, Wason said.

Dana Air says its fleet comprises Boeing MD-83 aircraft. Boeing's website says that model can carry 155 to 172 passengers, cover up to 2,504 nautical miles and has a fuel capacity of 7,000 gallons.

The airline, which is privately owned and based in Lagos, began operations in 2008.

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