Heartland remember late heroes from 1994 Oriental Airlines crash
Nigeria Professional Football League side, Heartland FC held a commemorative ceremony yesterday to remember ex-players and officials of the club, who lost their lives in the ill-fated Oriental Airlines crash 25 years ago, reports goal.com.
While recounting what happened on September 18, 1994, Heartland’s Director of Communications, Solomon Onu said it remained one of the saddest days in the history of the Naze Millionaires.
“The ill-fated flight of September 18, 1994, had players and officials of the then Iwuanyanwu Nationale (now Heartland of Owerri) who were in a quest for continental honours,” Onu explained in a statement sent to Goal.
“The Nigerian champions, Iwuanyanwu Nationale were returning from Tunisia where they had lost 3-0 to Esperance in the first leg of the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Champions (now Caf Champions League).”
In his tragic account of what transpired 25 years ago, Onu said when the chartered BAC 1-11 of the Oriental Airlines, owned by the club proprietor, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu took off, it had to contend with the early morning fog of the Sahara Desert region.
“So bad was the situation that the plane had to make an emergency landing at Agenat Airport, Tamanrasset in the Algerian Southern border with the Niger Republic,” he continued.
“In doing so, it crashed into a pole, then a lorry and finally into a fire station building.“The aircraft had circled in the airspace for almost three hours. After a mighty explosion, the aircraft came to a halt.“From the base of the badly mangled aircraft came 30 passengers alive. What a Miracle! Some were seriously wounded. But five, among them, two players, died.”
The players who lost their lives were a midfielder, Eghomwanre ‘Omale’ Aimanmwosa, and goalkeeper Uche Ikeogu. The late pilot was identified as Captain Amaechi; the co-pilot, Captain Chinedu Ogbonna and an air steward, Obiageli Ezeh.
Badly injured were Okon Ating and 20 others. Among the survivors were former Nigeria skipper and ex-coach, Christian Chukwu, former National Sports Commission director, Steve Olarinoye, Bola Oyebode of the Nigeria Football Federation and Chief Amanze Uchegbulam, former NFF First Vice president. Yesterday at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, survivors, teammates, ex Iwuanyanwu Nationale players, fans and others paid tribute to the memories of the fallen heroes.Heartland have been unable to win the Nigerian league title since the crash.
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