WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — Stuffed animals, flowers, candles and cards left by stunned neighbors and friends lay Tuesday in front of the West Hartford home of a family of six killed in an airline crash in Nigeria.
Sunday’s crash five miles from Lagos’ international airport killed all 153 people aboard including Maimuna Anyene of West Hartford, her husband, Onyeke, and their four children including 1-year-old twins, a 5-month-old and a 3-year-old. An untold number of people on the ground also died.
“It’s probably one of the most tragic things I’ve heard of in my life,” said Cynthia Elis, a neighbor of the family whose young daughter played with the Anyene children. “She was a beautiful person with four beautiful babies, and they’re never going to get to grow up.”
About 50 people in the relatively new neighborhood of town house condominiums gathered for a vigil Monday night and left items for a memorial on the family’s front step. Neighbors said Tuesday that they were having trouble coming to terms with the tragedy.
“Rest in peace with your four precious babies,” read one card. “Your family will be in our hearts forever.”
Several news reports said the Anyenes were returning from a wedding when the plane crashed. The cause is under investigation.
Maimuna Anyene, who earned a master’s degree at Penn State, was a human relations manager at United Technologies Corp. and had worked for the Hartford-based conglomerate for more than four years, the company said in a statement.
“We are saddened by the loss, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends around the world,” the company said. “She will be deeply missed by all, including her colleagues at UTC.”
Phone and email messages weren’t returned Tuesday by several people who knew the family.
Onyeke Anyene was a lawyer who lived most of the time in Nigeria and had law offices there, according to a report by the Nigerian news website Sahara Reporters.
The couple had four children: 1-year-old twins Kaima and Kaiyen, 5-month-old Noah and 3-year-old Kamsi, the children’s godmother, Mari Sifo, told The Hartford Courant.
“We’re devastated. We’re absolutely devastated,” another neighbor, Lisa Ohayon, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “A whole family wiped out, a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful family in so many ways.”
The Anyenes lived in an upscale development of attached town houses in the Elmwood section of town, not too far from Interstate 84 a few miles west of Hartford.
West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka said he didn’t know the family and wasn’t sure if there will be some kind of townwide remembrance. But he said people in town are talking about the tragedy.
Slifka said he had trouble reading aloud details of the plane crash and family to his wife Monday.
“As I was saying it, I was thinking of my own family. My god is this tragic,” Slifka said. “We’re roughly the same age. We have a 3-year-old daughter. That could be us.
“Everybody’s reaction seems to be pretty uniform. You wince describing it,” he said. “It is painful and it is a situation given the age of the kids that has a heightened sense of tragedy to it.”