PLAYING HARDBALL WITH KABS KANU : FLYING LEMONS – HOW CAN THE SLPP GOVERNMENT BE SO RECKLESS WITH PEOPLE’S LIVES IN SIERRA LEONE ?

 
One of the most annoying things about President Kabbah is his niche to pretend. How can President Kabbah  express shock and anger ( As demonstrated on the pages of another newspaper) , as well as say that he is going to set up a Committee to investigate the causes of last Sunday deadly helicopter crash at Lungi International Airport  which killed some citizens of West Africa –Togo and Gabon –and 2 Ukranians.
 
PARAMOUNT HELICOPTERS
ONE OF THE PARAMOUNT HELICOPTERS IN MIDAIR
President Kabbah, whose government only few months ago grounded the fleet of helicopters plying the Freetown-Lungi route,  certainly is not implying that he did not know that the helicopter companies in charge  had been flying lemons all over the place. If indeed this is the impression the President wants to give, he is the most deceitful and hypocritical man.
 
It is not a secret that the Paramount Airlines helicopters are accidents waiting to happen somewhere because they are lemons. In the language of the U.S. auto industry , a lemon is a vehicle that has a defect (or defects) that substantially impair its use, value and safety. The mechanical defects make the vehicle unfit for use . In the U.S,  and some other Western countries, there are Lemon Laws that ensure thorough repairs of the defects within the warranty period by the vehicle  dealer or the buyer gets a refund.
 
KABBAHHELICOPTERWRECKAGE
PRESIDENT KABBAH VIEWING THE WRECKAGE OF THE AIRCRAFT : FREETOWN MEDIA
In Africa, especially in countries like Sierra Leone , where nobody cares about public safety, lemon vehicles abound .Because government does not regulate the quality of vehicles imported , lemons pass through the cracks . They are the means of public transportation. Buses and lorries  that ply the provincial routes are  lemons and are always subject to breakdowns, with enormous inconvenience to passengers who are left stranded on  highways, at times for days. When I was in Sierra Leone on transit to the USA,  the buses I travelled in had brakdowns, whether it was CITY LINK  or MARICAN TOURS  or what-have-you. Together with bad roads and reckless driving , lemons contribute to the high rate of accidents in Sierra Leone.
 
Though lemon cars , buses and lorries are a fact of life in countries like Sierra Leone, it is impossible to believe that the hazard could have been extended to carriers  that fly in the air. The reason is simple. Whereas vehicles on land can break down without any danger to pasengers , it is not the same with aircrafts. When an aircraft malfunctions in the air, most often it crashes and burns, killing all onboard. Whereas passengers onboard land vehicles always have a second chance at survival, following a breakdown, a mechanical or structural malfunction in the sky almost always dooms the passengers to death. There is no second chance, except in very rare cases.
 
Given this horrific fact about aircrafts, is any nation sane if it allows defective crafts to fly in the sky ? One even tends to wonder whether the very pilots are sane. How can I continue working for an airline company that sends defective helicopters into the sky ? And they have involved in terrible accidents. Not once, not twice. Over three times, these helicopters that ferry passengers to and from Lungi have crashed tragically. In the early 1990s , two went down into the sea within the space of a couple of months, killing all their passengers. There has been other crash-landings , near-misses and scares in the sky. Recently, the helicopters were grounded because they were catching fire when in motion. How could I be a pilot, see all these dangers and know for sure that the defects are not being adequately repaired and I am ready to fly one into the sky ? This helicopter situation brings into question not only the sanity of those who operate them; it also puts a big question mark on  the mental state of those who fly them ( The pilots) , those in Sierra Leone who know the problems, and still ride them and ofcourse the government which allows such a kiiler schuttle service to operate in the country.
 
The pilots have cause to know whether Paramount Airlines is a member of the International Helicopter Safety Organization(IHSO)  and whether it adheres to the principals and protocols of the organization, vis-a-vis repairs and other safety measures. If they know that there is no serious agency or organization regulating the safety of the company’s helicopters, they are flying the company’s  crafts at their own risk.
 
We have come to the place in Sierra Leone where we have become too reckless with everything . WE CARE LESS FOR HUMAN LIVES, AS LONG AS WE ARE ABLE TO SQUEEZE MONEY  OUT OF THE SERVICES WE RENDER. And truth to speak, the blame starts with the government of the day. The government is quite aware that lebanese and other nationals involved in commerce in Sierra Leone are importing as well as operating vehicular services that are veritable  lemons that some Western or Eastern country  had written  off .Some of the cars , vans, lorries and buses imported to Sierra Leone had been rejected or written off because they were either manufacturers’ disasters or had been used until they were no longer safely operable. The lebanese and others go to Belgium or Germany, especially, and buy these junks and safety hazards  at very low costs and bring them to Sierra Leone, only to sell them at exorbitant costs. It is the same thing with the helicopters. They are old junks that had probably been written off where they were bought, But because these merchants have no respect for the lives of  the people whose sweat make them rich , they import all kinds of junk into the country and put them on our roads or in our skies. .
 
Some members of the public who spoke to Cocorioko  said that it was no secret that the Paramount helicopters were  accidents going somewhere to happen. People spoke of structural problems  on the helicopters .they said that while sitting in some of them you could literally see the floor under you. Others complained about pilots who did not look professional even in their appearance, at times wearing ‘comfort’ slippers to pilot the helicopters. Some wondered how they started operating again within weeks after the government recently grounded them. People believe that it is not only Transport Minister Prince Harding that should be held culpable but even the government itself . Any government that cares for the lives of its people would have known that the killer helicopters had started operating again, illegally.
 
One could also notice that the pilots had inadequate professional training. No professionally-trained pilot would jump out of an aircraft, leaving the doomed passengers to their fate. It is standard procedure for pilots  and ship captains to remain with their passengers and the craft to the bitter end.
 
Sierra leoneans were privy to all these problems. It is therefore hypocritical indeed for President Kabbah to feign anger at Paramount airlines or pretend not to know that it was only a matter of time before one of these helicopters crashed. The whole things smacks of nothing but official  negligence and recklessness and we should stop the pretence and showboating. 
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EXPRESS INDIA REPORTS

Sierra Leone helicopter crash kills 21

Togo’s sports minister and 20 other people were killed when a privately-owned shuttle helicopter they were flying in crashed at Sierra Leone’s Lungi international airport, sporting and airport officials said on Monday.Sports Minister Atipe Kwako was among the 18 Togolese nationals on board the Paramount Airlines helicopter which caught fire while descending in preparation for landing at Lungi and crashed on the tarmac around 8.30 pm on Sunday.One of three Russian crew members survived the crash, and was said to be in critical condition.”It was shocking to see the helicopter disintegrating,” senior airport maintenance officer Alfred Yelinkeh said.The Paramount Airlines helicopter, owned by a Nigerian businessman, operates a seven-minutes shuttle service between the Sierra Leonean capital Freetown and the airport.Sierra Leone Football Association public relations officer Chernor Ojuku Sesay said 18 Togolese officials and supporters died in the crash.

The rest of the victims were crew members.

“From what we hear, most of the victims were burnt beyond recognition,” Sesay said in Freetown.

The victims were using the helicopter to return to the airport after attending the match in which the Togo national football team beat Sierra Leone 1-0 in an African cup of Nations elimination match.

The team was in Freetown awaiting the next shuttle when the accident took place.

The team and officials had chartered a jet and were due to fly back home last evening.

Firefighters, police and the army only succeeded in extinguished the blazing aircraft several hours after it crashed, airport workers said.

“We are deeply moved over this development. We are also grieved by this tragic loss,” said Nahim Khadi, president of the Sierra Leone Football Association.

BBC REPORT

Minister suspended over air crash
Paramount Airlines helicopter (photo taken by BBC News website reader Jeremie Munyabarame)

The helicopter shuttle to the airport takes seven minutes

Sierra Leone’s Transport Minister, Prince Harding, has been suspended pending an investigation into the cause of Sunday’s helicopter crash.Three days of mourning have been announced for the 22 people who died at Sierra Leone’s main airport.

The helicopter had previously been grounded after failing safety checks. Mr Harding has denied any wrongdoing.

Sierra Leone’s two top aviation officials have also been suspended and all commercial helicopters grounded.

A presidential statement said an investigation was being launched into how the airline was allowed to resume flights.

Paramount Airlines is one of several African airline companies banned from operating within the European Union because of safety concerns.

Mr Harding said he would co-operate fully with the investigations.

Among the dead was Togolese Sports Minister Richard Attipoe.

The passengers were returning from watching Togo beat Sierra Leone 1-0 in an African Nations Cup qualifier.

The Togolese passengers had chartered the helicopter for the seven-minute flight from the city to the airport.

Helicopters and ferries are the only way to reach the airport, which is located across a bay from Freetown.

One of the two Ukrainian pilots survived when the helicopter burst into flames as it came into land.

The remains of the passengers are expected to be flown back to Lome in Togo on Wednesday. 

 

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