Nigeria Plane Crash

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) -- Rescuers are having difficulty identifying victims of a Nigerian plane crash that left some bodies dismembered or burned beyond recognition, an official said Wednesday.

Dana Air's Flight 992 slammed into a two-story apartment building Sunday in a crowded Lagos neighborhood. The plane was carrying 153 passengers and crew.

The grisly recovery has accounted for 149 bodies but only 52 are identifiable, said Ade Ipaye, the Lagos state attorney general. Another 97 bodies and several body parts are not identifiable, he said.

Authorities previously said the crash also killed at least 10 people on the ground.

They have not said why the Boeing MD-83, piloted by an American captain, went down Sunday. Authorities have recovered the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, which are expected to help determine a cause.

"Will not comment on the accident investigation," Ipaye told reporters Wednesday.

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

"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."

Nigerian aviation authorities have suspended Dana Air's operating license.

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

Seven U.S. citizens were aboard the flight, according to the State Department, although a list of names has not yet been released.

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

Waxtan had just joined Dana Air on March 26. Previously, 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.

The passenger plane appeared to be approaching the vicinity of the airport in Lagos high, its nose tilted upward, witnesses said. It crashed 11 miles north of the runway, hitting the ground tail first.

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

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


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