TRIBUTE: Jayeola, Nigeria’s 1st female helicopter captain who ‘saved’ 11 lives in Bristow crash
In a world where evil is far easier to remember than good, Abimbola Jayeola’s landmark achievement in December 2014 largely escaped the notice of mainstream media. That month, she became Nigeria’s first female helicopter captain. But it does seem that Jayeola is one woman who is irrevocably destined for glory; and if she won’t be properly celebrated for making history back then, it is impossible that she will again be overlooked this time —
on Thursday, February 4, 2016, her shrewd decision-making helped to avert the death of 11 Nigerians, plus yet another aviation-industry crisis. Jayeola it was who flew the 5B BJQ Bristow helicopter that was headed to Lagos from Port Harcourt but ended up “ditching” into the Atlantic Ocean. Captain Jayeola (middle) flanked by family The chopper, with 11 people — mostly ExxonMobil staff — and two crew members on board, sent a distress message shortly after 10am, and crashed into the Atlantic 20 minutes later.
About 10 minutes later, MV-DIJAMA, a new vessel owned by local Nigerian company L.A.T.C Marine Ltd, was alerted on the accident. It arrived at the crash scene around 11.50am and started rescue operation, with all the passengers already wearing their life jackets. MV-DIJAMA launched its Fast Rescue Boat immediately and started receiving the casualties from the chopper’s LifeRafts.
The accident happened 70 nautical miles off Lagos. The crash was not entirely incident-free. Three survivors suffered “hypothermia” — a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, in this case the Atlantic Ocean. Another survivor had a swollen arm, while the fifth had swollen shoulder. But it has now been revealed that were it not for the captain, all the lives aboard would have perished.
In a post that is fast trending on social networking site Facebook, someone with close ties to the captain, but who did not want to come public because the matter is “personal”, wrote: “Let’s celebrate and thank God for our Female Capt Abimbola Jayeola, who was the Capt on the Bristow Chopper that ditched in the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday.
“A split second’s decision saved the lives of 13 people and several families linked to them. Kudos to You Skipper, God will continue to protect you as you take to the skies daily. Stay safe!” Despite the reticence of the lady who posted the message, “a split second’s decision” implied the captain had to decide what was best for the helicopter, and the result is the sparing of the passengers’ and crew members’ lives.
This feat will attract due recognition when one remembers that only last year, a Bristow helicopter similarly departing Port Harcourt for Lagos crashed in the Oworonshoki area of Lagos, killing six people, including the captain, who joined the transport services company only the previous year. Is anyone still doubting the saying that “what a man can do, a woman can do better” — or, as the incurable male chauvinists would say in parody, “what a man can do, a woman can also try”? A standing ovation for the lady captain!