11 June 2012

Kenya Sets Up Inquiry Into Chopper Crash

Photo: Joseph Kariuki
Crash site: The crash claimed the lives of Internal security minister George Saitoti, his assistant Orwa Ojode, two bodyguards and two pilots.

Nairobi, Kenya — The government has instituted a public inquiry into Sunday's helicopter crash that killed six government officials as details began to emerge of the final moments of the ill-fated flight.

Transport Minister Amos Kimunya said the high powered team will be led by Court of Appeal Judge Kalpana Rawal.

Others in the five-member probe team are Air Force Commander Major General Harold Tangai, George McOwenga, Charles Mutinda and Faith Irari.

"They will be constituted as a court and then all the stakeholders will appear and the families will be represented before members of the public are invited to come and express their views on the issue," he added.

According to Kimunya the Eurocopter AS350 with registration number 5YCDT took off at Wilson Airport at 8.32am destined for Ndhiwa.

On board were Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, his assistant Orwa Ojode and bodyguards Inspector Joshua Tonkei and Sergeant Thomas Murimi.

On the controls were Superintendent Nancy Gituanja and Superintendent Luke Oyugi.

"The flight was normal from 8.32am to 8.37am until when it was leaving Wilson Airport and was being handed over to another frequency 118.5 and they (crew) confirmed it had picked up the new frequency," said the Minister.

"The last video tracking confirmed that as the last communication recorded and that is when it lost communication with control tower," he added.

Kimunya said initial investigations were pointing away from bad weather as the cause of the accident, saying conditions were normal for the flight.

"The weather is not to blame for the cause of the accident. The video tracking indicates that we lost the plane at 8.42 a.m. The weather was fine in Ngong' area and a visibility of eight kilometres," he explained.

The brand new helicopter was manufactured last year and registered on July 27. It was delivered to the Kenya Police just five months ago, having flown for less than a hundred hours.

"The aircraft was licensed to carry a minimum of one pilot and five passengers," he revealed.

"The procedure within the police air wing has been to provide two pilots manning the aircraft and a maximum of four passengers," he added.

The pilots Nancy Gituanja and Luke Oyugi had undergone specialised training for this particular model, and had been certified by the manufacturers to operate the helicopter.

"Gituanja was licensed as a commercial helicopter pilot in December 2009 and had a private helicopter license from April 2008. She had a total of 1166 hours and was trained by Eurocopter in South Africa on 25th of January. Oyugi also held a commercial license that was issued on January 2012 and a private license to fly helicopters in April 2008 and Eurocopter endorsed his license on the 16th of February," he said.

"(By) the nature of this high profile investigation we will have to have a public inquiry into the causes. We will be constituting a team that will carry a public inquiry so that the family, public, manufacturer and every stake holder will have a platform for the truth of what happened and help the aviation industry to will avert such accidents," he explained.

The Minister added that the public should desist from speculations and wait for the results of the inquiry.

"Through the inquiry we will get measures of avoiding such circumstances again," he said.

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