By Kunle Johnson:
It was like a scene from an action-packed movie. A car tears through a fence, races onto the tarmac and smashes into a packed aircraft getting set to fly. Bedlam.
All was real yesterday at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport, Calabar, Cross River State yesterday when a motorist rammed into a plane about to take off.
Passengers ran off the plane, following the car’s impact against it.
The blue Audi car with Cross River registration number XA254KAM missed hitting the engine of the Boeing 737 plane belonging to Arik Air.
The motorist, it was learnt, got onto the tarmac through the Nigerian Air Force section of the airport. He knocked down the two gates blocking access to the airport through the Air Force section and sped towards the Abuja-bound aircraft while passengers were boarding.
Some visibly shaken passengers said they were just settling in for the flight when they heard a noise which triggered the alarm. They were asked to disembark.
They said they initially thought it was a fire but when they disembarked they found a car had run into the plane.
There was pandemonium and everybody hurried down the gangway to the departure hall.
The passengers were shocked that security could be so porous that a man could gain access to the tarmac.
A passenger, who did not want his name in print, said: “It was just a miracle that he was not successful because he got to our plane quite alright and hit it the way he wanted to. God sure has a hand in this. If he had a bomb on him, by now it would be a different story. How can a commercial vehicle ram through two gates of the airforce and get to the tarmac and hit an airplane preparing to take off. This is an indication of the security lapses in the country.”
When our reporter visited the scene, the car was still squeezed beneath the belly of the plane.
The driver of the vehicle, who was arrested and beaten up by security men, said if given the opportunity, he would commit more atrocious acts.
The man, who appeared to be insane called everyone around a sinner, saying they all deserved to die. He said people in the world were turning away from God. Despite his bruises, he kept saying every human being is wicked and deserved to go to hell.
The pilot, Simon Robinson, expressed shock over the incident. He was in the cockpit when he heard the crash. When he realised what happened he directed that the passengers be evacuated.
As at press time, a team of engineers from Arik were attempting to lift the plane to pull the car out.
Officials of the Air Force, Police and airport refused to comment. They said investigations into the matter would begin immediately.
A former governorship candidate in Cross River State, Odiga Odiga, said he was inside the plane when the alarm sounded and passengers were asked to disembark.
“Initially we thought it was fire but it was when they got down that they discovered that it was a car right under the belly of the aircraft. It is one of the security lapses in the country. How can a commercial car run through two gates of the Air Force station and get to an aircraft that was about to take off?” he said.
Security agents at the airport expressed surprise that the Air Force personnel did nothing to stop the driver when he rammed into their gate.
Another Arik plane later came in from Lagos to pick the stranded passengers.
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