Pilot of Nigerian plane radioed trouble

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declares a three-day mourning period

LAGOS, Nigeria | June 4, 2012

The pilot of an airliner that crashed in Nigeria and killed 153 people on board and many others on the ground had radioed he was having trouble, officials said.

Details of what happened before the crash of Dana Air's Flight 9J-996 in a suburb of Lagos Sunday began to emerge as crews worked to recover bodies from the wreckage and authorities searched for flight recorders to try to determine what brought down the airplane, CNN reported.

Reports varied on the number of people killed on the ground. The Leadership newspaper in Nigeria said at least 30 died. Others put the number at about 10.

Crews had recovered more than 80 bodies, including 10 believed to be residents of the suburb, officials told CNN.

The pilot radioed he was having trouble with the MD-83 5-RAM and declared an emergency on the airplane's final approach to Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Oscar Wason, Dana Air's operations director, told CNN Monday.

The plane had come from Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja, Nigeria's capital.

Wason said the pilot was an American, the co-pilot was from India and the flight engineer from Indonesia.

Witnesses said the plane seemed to be in trouble when it crashed into an apartment building and a church about 11 miles from the runway in the densely populated suburb of Iju, the Leadership said. The impact caused a fire that prevented rescue operations from beginning immediately.

Dana Air is privately owned and based in Lagos. It began operations in 2008.

The Chinese Embassy said Monday six Chinese citizens were on board, CNN reported.

A northern elder, at least one retired government official, business leaders and the husband of Nigeria's Foreign Affairs Ministry also were on board, the Leadership, a national newspaper based in Abuja, said.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan ordered an investigation and declared a three-day period of national mourning, the Leadership said. He directed that the Nigerian flag be flown at half-staff during the mourning period.

"The president joins all Nigerians in mourning all those who lost their lives in the plane crash," said a statement by Jonathan.

The airplane was 22 years old and was bought from Alaska Airlines. It had been inspected three days before the crash, Wason said.

Nigerian aviation officials didn't ask Dana Air to ground its planes but the airline canceled all its flights Monday.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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