Police found black box from crashed Nigerian plane

Nigerian police have recovered the black box flight recorders of a Boeing 737 passenger airliner which crashed just north of Lagos on its way to the capital Abuja on Saturday evening, killing all 117 people on board, the most senior police officer at the scene said last night.

'The boxes were found this morning (Sunday) and handed over to the appropriate authorities,' said Police Commissioner Tunji Alapini, whose men were the first to arrive after the plane disintegrated as it fell from the sky during a thunderstorm.

'There is nothing more to rescue. The destruction is total,' he said as he left the crash site at Lissa village near Otta in a cocoa farming area north of Nigeria's commercial capital.

Local villagers said that the Boeing 737 jet appeared to have exploded in mid-air as it fought its way northwards through a thunderstorm shortly after nightfall on Saturday. Within three minutes after take-off the plane lost contact with air traffic control and shortly afterwards it hit the outskirts of a village, Lissa, on the northern edge of the greater Lagos area. Everyone on board was killed and the plane completely destroyed. Some witnesses said it exploded in mid-air.

Nigerian investigators had no early explanation for the disaster, but the flight data recorders should allow experts to begin piecing together the final minutes of the Bellview Airlines flight 201.

The director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Fidelis Onyeriri, said in a televised press briefing that the plane was 24 years old and had had a full technical inspection, which is valid for 18 months of flying, in February 2005.

Ten hours before it took off on its final journey it had had an additional check, he added.

'The plane didn't come in radio contact when it should have reached 13,000 feet, which is the normal procedure. So we were alerted, and as there couldn't be any radio contact the plane was declared presumed missing,' he said.

'When we came to the wreckage site, the aircraft was completely broken into pieces. There could be no survivors,' he added, reports Forbes. I.L.