John Ameh, Olaleye Aluko and Kayode Idowu
Five crew members, made up of two pilots and three personnel of the Nigerian Air Force, have been confirmed dead in the military helicopter crash which occurred in Damasak, Borno State, on Wednesday.
The victims were identified as Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob, the pilot in command; Flight Lieutenant Kaltho Kilyofas, the co-pilot; Sergeant Auwal Ibrahim, a flight technician; Lance Corporal Adamu Nura, a gunner; and Aircraft Man Meshack Ishmael, also a gunner.
The five crew members were on board the NAF Mi-35M helicopter, providing air support to troops of 145 Battalion, Damasak in Borno State, when the crash occurred around 7.30pm on Wednesday.
An attack helicopter had first been reportedly lost in combat at Damasak in Northern Borno State.
Northern Borno is a vulnerable and Boko Haram-attack area where the Islamic State of West African Province fighters had attempted to overrun military bases recently, with attacks on Metele on November 18, 2018, Buni Gari in early December 2018, and Baga in the latest invasion on December 26 and 27, 2018.
The air force acquired and inducted two Mi-35M attack helicopters from Russia in February 2017, which it deployed in the North-East to complement the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency.
On Thursday, our correspondent learnt that the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, went to Maiduguri over the aircraft crash and met with the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole.
The air chief also received the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, in Maiduguri, over the air crash.
The NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, said on Thursday that the remains of the deceased personnel had been recovered and deposited in a morgue in Maiduguri.
He said, “These gallant fallen heroes made the supreme sacrifice in the service of our fatherland, for which the NAF, and indeed the entire nation, owe them an unending debt of gratitude. The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, commiserates with the families.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday condoled with the Nigerian Air Force and the families of the five persons who died in the military helicopter.
“The President mourns Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob (Pilot in Command); Flight Lieutenant Kaltho Paul Kilyofas (Co-Pilot); Sergeant Auwal Ibrahim (Flight Technician); Lance Corporal Adamu Nura (Gunner); and Aircraftman Meshack Ishmael (Gunner), who died in the mishap,” a statement by the Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, read.
The President sent a similar message to the victims of the Wadata Market fire disaster, which occurred in Makurdi, the Beuue State, on Tuesday.
He said he was deeply saddened by the losses the traders recorded as a result of the incident.
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