Family, Friends Mourn as Brave Officers ‘Flew’ to Their Final Destinations

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Olayemi Esan, Abuja

They came, they saw but ‘flew’ to their final destinations unannounced. This perhaps explains how families and friends have reacted to the death of the seven young Air Force officers who died in the ill-fated NAF B350i aircraft that crashed in Abuja on Sunday.

For the two young pilots; Flight Lieutenants Ciroma Haruna Gadzama from Borno State and Piyo Henry Piyo from Plateau State, torrent of tributes have continued to stream on their various Social media Platforms.

A source at the Air Force Base, Kaduna, told our correspondent on Monday that late Gadzama’s father is a first class electrical engineer who retired as a wing commander in the Nigerian Air Force and was also the HOD Electrical Electronics Engineering while late Henry Piyo, has an aged father Mr Bitrus Piyo who lives in Jos. The father was said to work as a staff of the University of Jos but later transferred to University of Ibadan UI. The bereaved is a retiree after working with the Plateau State Government. He currently lives in Jos, Plateau State.

According to Abbas Waziri, a friend to late Gadzama, he described his late friend as being friendly and intelligent while alive.

Waziri, who is also an officer said they shared the same battalion and was also the course senior of the course in the battalion (similar to what is known in conventional colleges as “course rep or class chairman in tertiary institutions).
“Late Flight Lieutenant Ciroma Haruna Gadzama was not only a coursemate to me he was also a brother. We were both air force cadets in the Air force wing of the Nigerian Defence Academy and his room was directly below mine in Charlie company” he said..
“The last time I saw Gadzama was at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport when I was travelling to Lagos some time ago. He was himself. Dashing, lively and chatty”.
“People that saw the plane crash say the pilot and the co-pilot were brave and considerate. They maneuvered the plane to not crash into people’s houses and domain”: he said.
One of the deceased brothers Piyo Bernard, said on his social media page, “Woke Up with a Sad News. Just lost a very dear brother Flight Lieutenant Henry Piyo (Co-pilot) who lost his Life in the Air Force Plane Crash. Rest on Brother, you will forever be Missed”.
Some members of the Ex Junior Pilot Association also took to the social media to mourn Gadzama, describing him as a jovial and hardworking officer.

“We are saddened by the tragic death of Flt Lt CH Gadzama of 07 set of Air Force Secondary School Kaduna on the Sunday 21th of Febuary 2021.He was a Jovial and hardworking Officer of the Nigerian Airforce.

“Our condolence in the loss of our member. Many of us knew him personally and his personal traits were well loved. He will be missed.

“On behalf of the Ex Junior Pilot Association we extend our deepest sympathies to The NAF and his family during this period of mourning. May his Gentle soul rest in peace.”

In addition to that, some coursemates of the two pilots and members of the 62 Regular Course (RC), Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), described the two officers were amicable and committed.

“Gadzy and Hyper T are gentlemen,” one of the officers prayed for the repose of their souls.

Meanwhile, at Ogotun Ekiti an ancient town in the Ekiti South West Local Government of Ekiti State, the atmosphere has been mournful since the news was broken. The reason is simple, Flight Sergeant Olasunkanmi Olawunmi, an Airborne Tactical Observation System (ATOS) Specialist hailed from the town. A member of the House of Representatives, representing Ekiti State in the National Assembly, Ibrahim Olarewaju, has on Monday on his social media condole with Governor of Ekiti State on the death of the young office.
“My deepest Condolences to all Ekiti People and the family of our brother, an Ogotun Ekiti born Flt. Sg. Olasunkanmi Olawumi, Airborne Tactical Observation System(#ATOS) specialist & one of the victims of the unfortunate Nigeria Airforce crash involving NAF aircraft, Beechcraft KingAir BB305i. May God give the family the fortitude to bear the loss. Rest in Peace brother,” Hon. Olarewaju stated.

According to members of the 62 Regular Course (RC), Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), who have also spoken on the demise of the two pilots, the two officers were dutiful and committed.
“Gadzy and Hyper T are gentlemen,” one of the officers prayed for the repose of their souls.
Another officer described them as amicable and thorough gentlemen, adding that they completed their flying school at Ilorin, Kwara State.
“They are friendly and even this morning I chatted with Gadzama.

They will be remembered for their selfless service, discipline and dedication to the job.

“Both were very optimistic and found joy in doing what they were doing. We have lost great pilots that were always willing, able and ready to serve,” he said.
Similarly, a member of their crew who was initially feared killed took to her social media status to reassure her loved ones that she was not onboard the flight.
Screenshot of her status update, which was shared online read: “I can’t pick any call right now, but I am alive. Thank you all for the calls and care. I am more scared for my life than anybody right now.
“All the seven persons that died are not strangers to me.
“I fly with the two captains often and the engineer ACM Johnson, is my very close godson and he’s actually in my group. He posted my picture yesterday on his status and we (were) laughing about it.
This is an aircraft we all worked on last week. The Air Force lost seven vibrant souls today again and this time from my own household, my own home, my own happy place. The only difference is that I was not on flight today.
Maybe I would have been the one (dead). My heart is heavy.”
Nigerians took to the social media to celebrate the bravery of the pilots who witnesses said, spared the country major calamity by diverting the plane from crashing into residential neighbourhood.
Video footages shared online showed locals narrating, how the pilot avoided landing in residential neighbourhood and maneuvered the plane towards to bush.
This account shared by multiple witnesses endeared the pilots to the hearts of Nigerians, who described them as heroes.
Few hours after the crash, an eyewitness told our correspondent how the pilot, Flt Lt Gadzama, struggled with the plane and ensured it didn’t crash on residential areas.
“It was obvious the pilot knew the game was over as he struggled unsuccessfully to control the plane. To avoid recording more casualties, he had technically diverted it from crashing on residential areas and so landed in a bush behind the airport,” the man who simply introduced himself as Michael stated.

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