Dana Crash: Coroner Threatens To Close Pathologist’s Testimony

A Lagos State coroner court in Ikeja conducting an inquest into last year’s crash of a Dana Airline plane may cut short the testimony of the state’s Chief Medical Examiner, Prof. John Obafunwa, due to his repeated absence from court.
dana-air-crash17All the 153 persons on board and others on the ground were killed in the crash involving Dana’s MD-83 plane on June 3, 2012 in Ishaga, Lagos.Obafunwa, who doubles as the Vice-Chancellor of the Lagos State University, was absent for cross-examination on Monday and Tuesday.

Obafunwa’s testimony is crucial to the inquest, which is a system established to, among others, make recommendations and find out the cause of death and manner of death of the deceased in unusual circumstances.

The forensic pathologist had earlier testified on the probable causes of the death of the victims and provided the details of autopsy tests and the identification processes conducted on their bodies.

Counsel representing the Lagos State Government in the proceedings, Mr. Akinjide Bakare, restated on Tuesday that the don was absent from court because of his “university duties”.

“We are sorry, we did not envisage this after what happened yesterday (Monday),” Bakare said.

He gave the same reason for Obafunwa’s absence on Monday.

Counsel for Dana Airline, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), who was to cross-examine Obafunwa, on Tuesday expressed disappointment over Obafunwa’s absence from court.

He said the adjournments suffered by the inquest were avoidable, if the offices of LASU’s Vice-Chancellor and the Lagos State Chief Medical Examiner were not being occupied by the same person.

“He has now foisted on us two days of unnecessary adjournment. It is an avoidable situation,” he said.

The coroner, Mr. Oyetade Komolafe, who had wished to conclude the proceedings within the week, was forced to fix July 3 and 4 for the forensic pathologist to appear in court.

While responding to the concern of a lawyer, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, over assurance that Obafunwa would be in court on the rescheduled dates, Komolafe said his testimony would be closed and the court would proceed if he fails to appear in court.

Irukera represents the Aviation Minister, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and the Accident Investigation Bureau at the proceedings.

“We will close that matter and will continue our proceedings,” Komolafe said.

The coroner also re-scheduled one of AIB’s consultants, Prof. Adekunbi Banjo, who had sought to refute certain allegations by Obafunwa, to appear in court on the same date with the Chief Medical Examiner.

Obafunwa’s testimony that Banjo, a professor of Anatomical Pathology, had suggested to him to only perform autopsy tests on the pilot and co-pilot of the crashed plane did not go down well with her and AIB.

Meanwhile, Dana’s Director of Flight, Mr. Oscar Wilson, is expected to appear in court on Wednesday for cross-examination.