Nigeria Plane Crash

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) -- Nigerian aviation authorities suspended Dana Air's operating license Tuesday as torrential rain hampered recovery efforts after the deadly weekend 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 will help investigators piece together what caused Sunday's crash that authorities say killed at least 153 people aboard the plane and at least 10 people on the ground.

So far, rescuers have recovered 153 bodies, including that of a woman clutching a baby, from the crash site. But a downpour forced a suspension of recovery efforts Tuesday.

Dana Air's Flight 992 slammed into a two-story residential building in a densely populated neighborhood of Lagos, Nigeria's largest city.

"The wall of the building, the plane pushed the wall of our building in, and it hit everything," said Kingsley Okeke, who was inside. "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 was a former Spirit Airlines captain based in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area, according to CNN affiliate WPEC. He also flew for Falcon Air Express, a charter airline in Miami.

Friends expressed condolences on Facebook.

"R.I.P cap Peter Waxtan you will be missed," wrote Bassema Geha Zoghbi, whose Facebook information said she works for customer services at Spirit Airlines.

Other U.S. citizens were on board the flight, the U.S. State Department said Monday, but the agency did not have an exact number. The consulate in Lagos was working to notify the victims' next of kin, spokesman Mark Toner said.

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

Jennifer Onita, 28, recently worked in aeronautics engineering for a NASA contractor and was a graduate student at the University of Houston. Josephine Onita, 23, managed all five locations of the family's financial planning and tax services business.

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

According to witnesses, the passenger plane appeared to be coming in high with its nose up when it crashed, hitting the ground tail first, Wason said.

The flight, coming from the Nigerian capital of Abuja, crashed at 3:43 p.m. Sunday in the neighborhood of Iju Ishaga, just north of the airport, according to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

The crash site was 11 miles (18 kilometers) from the runway, Wason said.

The airplane was 22 years old and was purchased from Alaska Airlines. It underwent a routine maintenance checkup every 200 hours, and it had been inspected three days earlier, Wason said.

The Nigerian aviation authority has not asked Dana Air to ground its planes, though the airline canceled all its flights Monday as a show of respect for the victims of the crash, he said.

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


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