She now lives with face and body scars. She is only 24 but looks much older. A less resilient person will have recoiled and hidden herself from the world but Kechi Okwuchi decided to do the direct opposite; stand as a witness to the irreparable damage that happens to people when aviation companies especially across Africa don’t respect basic safety rules. She also wants emergency reaction following air crashes to be prompt and have the necessary equipment on board to save lives. He first emergency fire truck that arrived at the scene of the 2005 plane crash that dramatically changed her life had no water in its tank
Kechi is now a student at the University of St Thomas, a catholic private College in Houston, Texas in the USA where she now resides and is still undergoing intense surgery. She is one of only two people who survived the December 10th 2005 Sosoliso plane crash when a plane that left Abuja for Port Harcourt for Christmas holidays crashed in Enugu, Nigeria. Kechi was only 16 then and 60 of the victims, like herself, were students of the Loloya Jesuit College in Abuja. They all died in the crash. Kechi and one other woman survived to tell the story and she never misses an occasion to remind (especially) politicians, the role they must play to ensure airport/airlines safety across Africa and to an extent, the whole world.
Kechi recently was star of a video that was used as part of publicity to raise N500 million to construct a residential block of flats for teachers of Loyola Jesuit College, her Alma mater.
Speaking with a slight American accent now, she recounts the story of the crash, how she was moved to South Africa initially for treatment with the help of Shell Petrol Company and how she was eventually relocated for “long term treatment” in the USA. She acknowledges the help she has received from family members, friends and different organizations since the crash some 8 years ago.
The accident left life changing effects on her entire family. Her mother lives with her in the USA and is her primary carer and lives miles away from her father who only pays yearly visits to see them from Nigeria. Every single plane crash in Nigeria reminds her of the events of 2005. In an open video plea to Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, she says most aviation accidents can be easily prevented if the airline companies respect simple safety rules.
Accidents happen, she says but the rapidity with which emergency services intervene after an accident could make the difference between life and death. She says the first rescue truck that appeared following the Sosoliso plane crash had no water in its tanks. She wants strict standards for the airworthiness of planes that fly especially across the African skies. 114 people died in Cameroon in 2007 mostly because of the hours it took for authorities in the country to even locate the exact location of a Boeing 737 Kenyan airlines plane that went missing a couple of minutes after take off during a storm from the Douala airport. Similar avoidable accidents have happened in other countries across Africa leaving hundreds of bereaved and scarred families like the Okwuchi’s.
Herewith her heart rendering plea for the adoption of more safety measures by the aviation industry in Africa.