2 Sisters From Texas, Family From Connecticut Perish In Nigeria Crash

By: CNN (Posted by Kion Hudson)
By: CNN (Posted by Kion Hudson)

(CNN)-- Josephine and Jennifer Onita were returning from the wedding of a close friend in Nigeria.

Maimuna Anyene was on her way to her brother's matrimonials.

Weddings are a big reason people cross oceans and continents, making journeys brimming with mirth and laughter back to the lands where they and their families came from.

This weekend, that joy plunged to absolute sorrow for at least two families in the United States.

Anyene was killed along with her husband and four children when Dana Air Flight 992 crashed Sunday in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city.

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Also on board were the Onita sisters from Missouri City, Texas: well-educated, smart and full of promise.

"I don't have anyone to talk to anymore," their elder sister, Christiana Onita-Olojo, said Tuesday.

Her parents, Solomon and Lola Onita, came to the Houston area from Nigeria three decades ago, harboring the dream of all immigrants.

Josephine, 23, often went by her middle name, Anita. She studied accounting at the University of North Texas and was managing all five locations of her father's business. She was a super-entrepreneur.

Jennifer, 28, went to Texas Tech University and earned a degree in electrical engineering. She'd worked at Raytheon and as a contractor for NASA and was studying biomedical engineering.

She was a bookworm, the kind of person who was quiet when she met a stranger but then talked up a storm.

Ayo Akindona, a second cousin, was especially close to Jennifer. They grew up together in the same Missouri City neighborhood and spent many days at each other's houses.

He used to love to brag to his friends: "I know a rocket scientist."

Akindona said Josephine had gone shopping with his sister last Wednesday, before she left for Nigeria. The two women had their nails done and later, when they returned to Akindona's family home, they stayed up late talking. So late that Akindona's father broke up the conversation at 1 a.m.

Josephine had been to Nigeria several times. Next time, she said, they would all go together.

"I walked her out to the door, waved bye," he said. "I thought nothing of it."

Then at 5:30 Sunday evening, when Akindona was on his way to meet friends, his phone rang. It was his sister.

Come home immediately, she said. Jennifer and Josephine had died in a plane crash.

Akindona said he keeps waiting for someone to tell him it was a mistake. They weren't on that flight. Their phone ran out of battery power so they could not call. Something. Anything but the truth.

Houston pastor Banji Adesanmi knew the Onita family through the Redeemed Christian Church of God, based in Nigeria. He had planned to take the doomed flight with the Onita sisters but changed his plans.

"I feel bad that I missed it and they did not," he said in an e-mail from Nigeria. "They are younger and have a full life ahead of them."

All three Onita girls -- they have a younger brother, Solomon Jr. -- belonged to the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. But Onita-Olojo said there were no words to describe the sisterhood they shared by blood.

Onita-Olojo said she spoke with her sisters every day, about everything. She had been anxious for them to return to Texas.

Her husband had also attended the wedding in Abuja and had taken an earlier flight. Onita-Olojo didn't go because she had just given birth.

Tuesday, her husband returned home. Her sisters didn't.

She struggled for words. What do you say when parents lose two of their four children? And a sister loses her confidantes?

She can see her sisters in her own daughter. Sometimes, she makes a face and looks like Josephine. Other times, she looks like Jennifer.

"I have to be strong," Onita-Olojo said, standing outside her door, speaking to a reporter from CNN affiliate KHOU. "And pull it together for the family."

In another American city, far from the wreckage in Lagos, friends and family dealt with similar, gut-wrenching grief.

Maimuna Anyene and her husband, Onyeke, were on their way from Hartford, Connecticut, to Lagos for her brother's wedding. They had with them their four children, including their youngest, just 5 months old.

Her colleagues at United Technologies said Anyene had just returned from maternity leave to her job in the company's human resources division. She was an invaluable member of the team, a company statement said.

"She was a great, dedicated mom," said Sue Dombeck. "We were all shocked yesterday."

Neighbors on Park Place Circle described Anyene as someone who always smiled, said hello. The community was in disbelief over the tragedy. An entire family -- gone.

One neighbor, Tegan Gonzalez, placed flowers on Anyene's doorstep, the Hartford Courant reported.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said seven of the people on the flight were U.S. citizens. Officials were still working to notify all the families and had not released a final list.

But one on that list is Peter Waxtan, the American pilot of the flight.

Waxtan flew as a captain for Spirit Airlines from 1997 to 2009, according to the airline.

"All of us at Spirit are very saddened by this tragedy and extend our heartfelt condolences to all of his loved ones and the family and friends of everyone on the flight," said spokeswoman Misty Pinson.

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

Friends expressed condolences on Facebook.

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

Waxtan had just started flying with Dana Air, said Oscar Wason, director of operations for the domestic Nigerian carrier. His first day was in March.


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