Josephine Onita was a 23 year old aspiring Entrepreneur. Josephine graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in Accounting. Josephine went on to open a successful multi branch accounting firm in the Houston Metropolitan area. Josephine was a firm believer in the verse “We walk by faith and not by sight”. Josephine is survived by her mother and father, as well as her two remaining siblings, as well as by her niece and nephew. (Credit : Onita Family)
Jennifer Onita was a 28 year old Bio-Medical Engineering student at the University of Houston Graduate School. Jennifer was an accomplished Engineer with concentrations in both Aeronautics and Defense. Jennifer had a firm faith in her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jennifer is survived by Her mother and father, her two remaining siblings, as well as a niece and nephew. (Credit : Onita Family)
Relatives, friends and church members gathered Monday at the Onita home in Missouri City to mourn the loss of two ambitious sisters from the Houston area who perished in a Sunday plane crash in Nigeria that killed all 153 passengers.
Josephine and Jennifer Onita, of Missouri City, were in Lagos to attend a wedding.
They are the middle children of Solomon and Lola Onita, pastors of a Missouri City congregation affiliated with the Nigeria-based Redeemed Christian Church of God.
The airliner went down in a densely populated area of Lagos, leveling buildings and apartments that are believed to have been occupied. The cause of the crash remains unclear, but investigators said pilots reported engine trouble minutes before impact. The U.S. State Department could not verify the number of Americans on the flight. A spokesman late Monday said that U.S. officials are working with the Nigerian government to ensure all next of kin have been notified and expect to announce an accurate toll on Tuesday.
News of the deaths stunned loved ones who gathered Monday night to sing and pray at the Onita residence. The story also made headlines on Nigerian, Nigerian-American and Nigerian expat news sites.
“Josephine always made people laugh. Jennifer is sweet,” said their older sister, Christiana Onita-Olojo. “These are angels.”
Jennifer Onita, 28, graduated from the High School for the Engineering Professions in Houston, earned an electrical engineering degree from Texas Tech University and recently worked in aeronautics engineering for a NASA contractor. She was a graduate student at the University of Houston studying biomedical engineering.
“She wanted to do biomedical research and probably work in a hospital,” her older sister said. “She was a very fun-loving person.”
Josephine Onita graduated from Hightower High School in Missouri City and studied accounting at the University of North Texas.
The 23-year-old managed all five locations of Financial Planning and Tax Office, which was founded two decades ago by Solomon Onita after immigrating here from Nigeria with his wife in the early 1980s.
“It was a family business passed down to her from my father,” Onita-Olojo said.
The Onita daughters had an added sisterly link as members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. All four Onita offspring pursued higher education. Their youngest sibling, Solomon Jr., is scheduled to graduate from college in December.
Lost without sisters
Already “lonely” because her husband also was in Lagos for the same wedding, Onita-Olojo said she will be lost without her sisters.
“I talk to them all the time every day. I don’t know who I’m going to talk to anymore,” she struggled to explain. “We talk about everything from TV shows to serious stuff. If I hear something silly on the radio, I call and we laugh.
“I couldn’t wait for all of them to get back.” Funeral arrangements are pending.
All the neighborhood children played together, Gonzalez said. Her children were so energetic, she said.
Bokotey said she had to explain to her 11-year-old what happened. “I didn’t want to cry in front of him,” she said.
Maimuna Anyene worked at United Technologies Corp., where she was a human resources manager in the company’s Gold Building in Hartford.
“Maimuna Anyene was an invaluable part of the United Technologies team for more than four years,” UTC spokeswoman Fitzgerald said in a statement. “We are saddened by the loss, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends around the world.”
Pilots on the Dana Air flight from Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, to its largest city of Lagos radioed the airport tower that they had engine trouble shortly before the crash at 10:43 a.m. ET, but the exact cause was not clear.
The jet smashed into businesses and crowded apartment buildings near Lagos’ Murtala Muhammed International Airport.
“The fear is that since it happened in a residential area, there may have been many people killed,” said Yushau Shuaib, a spokesman for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency.
At the crash site Monday, police with cadaver dogs searched for bodies inside the wreckage. Overnight officials brought in a large crane from a local construction company to lift pieces of debris away. They also brought blow torches to cut through what remains of the plane. The debris still smoldered Monday morning. Some wore masks to try and protect themselves from the stench of the dead.
In West Hartford, neighbors had difficulty coming to terms with Anyene’s death.
“She really was a wonderful person,” neighbor Elyse Fox said of Anyene. “She always had a smile on her face. The kids were always happy.”
Neighbor Keith Elis said he did not know Maimuna Anyene well, but said she seemed nice.
“She’s pretty busy with all of those kids,” he said. “When I saw her, she was always smiling.”
Elis said it was difficult to know a whole family is gone.
“We’re certainly upset about it,” Elis said.
Fox said Anyene was a hard worker who “always looked impeccably dressed. She’s just always well put together.”
Fox, who said her own 1-year-old keeps her busy, said she asked Anyene how she raised four children under the age of 5.
“I have help,” she would say.
Jack Ohayon, another neighbor, said Anyene was about to move. That was sad enough, he said.
“Right before they left for Nigeria, she was talking about a job she was taking in Rhode Island, and we were saddened to hear she was going to leave,” Ohayon said.
“And I just can’t imagine they were involved in this crash,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable.”
His grandchild played with her children, Ohayon said.
“It’s just an unbelievable tragedy. It’s a wonderful young family.”
Nancy Elis, who baby-sits her grandchild at the complex, has crossed paths with the family, too.
“It’s just surreal. You can’t wrap your brain around something like that.”
Fox said Anyene’s children used to knock on the window of the townhouse and greet passersby.
Her voice broke as she realized that she is “never going to hear that again.”