George Osodi  /  AP
An unidentified airport official views the wreckage of a Nigerian airliner that crashed Saturday at the airport in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Accident investigators sifted through the wreckage of the plane on Sunday, searching for the cause of the accident.
updated 12/11/2005 1:40:18 PM ET 2005-12-11T18:40:18

Four people died after being pulled from the wreckage of a Nigerian jetliner that crashed while landing in a storm, state television said Sunday, raising the number killed to 107, most of them schoolchildren coming home for Christmas.

The victims included an American aid worker.

Airport officials directed frantic family members to morgues in this southern oil center as a Roman Catholic cleric in Abuja said 71 schoolchildren from that city’s Jesuit school died in Saturday’s crash of the Sosoliso Airlines DC-9.

At one overwhelmed hospital, bodies were piled together because of a lack of room.

Rescue workers pulled seven survivors from the burning aircraft, but state television reported that four later died. The plane’s twisted, charred wreckage lay in two parts as investigators picked through the pieces.

President Olusegun Obasanjo canceled a visit to Portugal and said he would meet with the country’s airline operators to discuss “much-needed reforms in Nigeria’s aviation industry,” presidential spokeswoman Remi Oyo said in a statement. The crash was the second major air disaster in seven weeks in Africa’s most populous nation.

“The president is particularly saddened by the untimely and abrupt termination of the lives of many young schoolchildren,” Oyo said.

The cleric in Abuja, John Onaiyekan, said 71 schoolchildren from the city’s Ignatius Loyola Jesuit College died in the crash. Four others got off the plane when it made a scheduled stopover in another city, he said.

Aid workers among casualties
Paris-based aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said two of its international employees were among the dead: a French national and an American.

A top aviation ministry official, Tommy Oyelade, said investigators had recovered the plane’s flight data recorders, or “black boxes,” but the cause of the crash was not yet known.

Sam Adurogboye, spokesman for the National Civil Aviation Authority said the weather was stormy at the time of the crash, and witnesses said they saw lightning as the plane approached the runway carrying 103 passengers and seven crew members.

Established in 1994, Nigerian-owned Sosoliso began scheduled flights as a domestic airline in July 2000 and now flies to six Nigerian cities, according to its Web site.

No comment from carrier
Sosoliso spokesman Simbo Olorufemi in Lagos would not comment on the crash beyond confirming it had occurred and saying “most of the passengers might have lost their lives.”

Nigerian airports have come under criticism in recent months following a string of near-misses and an incident in which an Air France passenger jet crashed into a herd of cows on the runway at Port Harcourt.

International airlines briefly suspended flights at Lagos’ airport because of holes in the runway.

In May 2002, a domestic EAS Airlines jet plowed into a heavily populated neighborhood after takeoff from the airport outside the northern city of Kano, killing 154 people in the plane and on the ground.

On Oct. 22, an Abuja-bound Boeing 737-200 crashed after taking off from Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, killing 117 people on board the Bellview Airlines flight. The cause is not known, but U.S. investigators helping with the investigation ruled out terrorism, an Aviation Ministry official said last month.

After the October crash, Obasanjo ordered stricter safety and maintenance procedures for all Nigerian aircraft, directing the Aviation Ministry to “plug loopholes” to ensure passenger safety.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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