Bayelsa declares 3 days of mourning for helicopter crash victims

*Speculation mounts over cause of crash

Samuel Oyadongha

16 December 2012, Sweetcrude, YENAGOA – Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has declared three days of mourning for the Governor of Kaduna State, Patrick Yakowa, former National Security Adviser, Gen Andrew Owoye Azazi and four others who lost their lives in a naval helicopter yesterday in the state.

Meanwhile speculation continues to mount over the likely cause of the crash with some eye witnesses claiming the chopper exploded mid air before plunging into the Okoroba mangrove forest.

The deceased persons were retuning to Port Harcourt in the ill-fated chopper, with the inscription NN 07 when it crashed and burst into flame shortly after take off from Okoroba community in Nembe council area of the state.

They were among several dignitaries that visited the serene riverside town of Okoroba to commiserate with Oronto Douglas whose father, late Pa Tamunoobebara Douglas was interred Saturday.

Governor Dickson yesterday accompanied by former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the Chief of Naval Staff, Dele Ozeoba, top military chiefs and senior Bayelsa government officials visited the morgue of the Federal Medical Centre Yenagoa where the remains of the victims of the ill-fated helicopter were deposited.

Dickson who spoke to newsmen shortly after inspecting the remains of the crashed victims also directed that all flags at public places in the state be flown at half mast during the three days of mourning in honour of the contributions, services and sacrifices of the deceased.

He also cancelled all the state government government engagements.

The governor who struggled to control his emotion said, “This is a very sad day for our dear state and great country. This day we are reminded once again about our mortality. It is a tragic and irreparable loss for this state, the government and the people of Kaduna State. Let me first of all express our condolences on behalf of the good people of Bayelsa State to the government and people of Kaduna state whose Governor came visiting, to strengthen and deepen our bonds of brotherhood.

“Let me also express our condolences to the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and Chief of Naval Staff, who is here standing by my side over the loss of those gallant officers .

“May God in his infinite wisdom and mercy give the families of all the deceased persons the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss, especially our brother and leader late Gen. Andrew Owoye, Chairman of the Bayelsa State Post-Flood Management Commitee just inaugurated less than two weeks ago. Chairman designate of the Bayelsa State Development Corporation.

“The right steps and decisions will be taken. As a government, to underscore our profound strength of bereavement I hereby direct three days of mourning in memory and in honor of the contributions and services and sacrifices of our departed heroes. Within this period, all flags in Bayelsa State shall fly at half mast. This state government would work with the families and support organizations. We will partner closely with the government and good people of Kaduna State to ensure that the right thing is done.”

It was reliably gathered that the remains of the crashed victims were deposited at the morgue of the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa between 2.30 and 3am Sunday by military personnel deployed to the mangrove swamp, the scene of the tragic crash which threw the riverside settlement of Okoroba into mourning.

It was gathered that the bodies were conveyed to the Ogbia water front in Ogbia local government area in a convoy of boats accompanied by military gunboats where they were received by a waiting team of military personnel and top Bayelsa government officials before being moved to the medical facility.

The Ogbia jetty was reportedly cordoned off by military operatives mourning the tragic incident.

Meanwhile, condolence registers have been opened in Government House and the State Secretariat complex in Yenagoa.

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