Plane nosedives in Nigeria, kiling 16 in fiery crash

A chartered airplane nosedived into the ground and burst into flames near tanks of aviation fuel on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria, on Thursday, killing up to 16 people, officials said.

Six survivors were rushed to the hospital, two in critical condition, Joe Obi, spokesman for Nigeria's Aviation Ministry, told The Associated Press.

Obi said 14 people were killed on the aircraft that was carrying 20 people -- 13 passengers and seven crew members.

However Lagos state Deputy Gov. Victoria Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire told reporters that 13 people died and there were seven survivors.

Later, Capt. Usman Muktar, commissioner of the Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau investigating the accident, said there were only four survivors.

There was no way to immediately account for the discrepancy, though some survivors may have died in the hospitals and some bodies apparently are burned beyond recognition.

The deputy governor appealed to family members to come forward for DNA tests to help identify the victims' remains. She spoke to reporters outside Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, where some of the wounded are being treated.

Federal Aviation Agency spokesman Yakubu Dati said the Brazilian-made turboprop Embraer-120 crashed at 9:20 a.m. (0820 GMT) shortly after taking off from Murtala Muhammed Airport's domestic terminal.

Police Commissioner Waheed Sanau said the plane was chartered from Associated Airline to fly from Lagos to Akure in Ondo state and crashed into open land near a tollgate shortly after taking off.

The front of the aircraft was completely destroyed, indicating it was the first part to hit the ground. The wrecked remains, surrounded by security officers and rescue workers, lay about 30 meters (yards) from massive tanks storing aviation fuel.

Local news reports said the plane was carrying mourners and the body of former Ondo state Gov. Olusegun Agagu, who died on Sept. 13.  Dati said Agagu's casket and the black box that records data from the aircraft had been recovered.

The pilot detected a fault soon after taking off and tried to return to the airport for an emergency landing but did not make it, another police official said on condition of anonymity because Lagos airport is not included in his duties. He said aviation officials were discussing a possible engine failure.

Nigerian airlines and airports have notoriously poor safety records.

The Minister for Domestic Aviation, Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah, sent condolences to the families of victims and said in a statement, "I assure the public that the investigation will be thorough and that our airspace remains safe and secure."