The Star (Nairobi)

18 June 2012

Kenya: Fog Forces Pilot to Land Chopper in Mathira Swamp

SEVERAL residents of Mathira East district in Nyeri county panicked yesterday morning when a private helicopter made an emergency landing in the area. The chopper landed in a swamp where farmers grow arrowroots. The pilot, Allan Root, said he left Isiolo in the morning to fly his two children to school in Nairobi but was forced to land at Kahara village at 7.30am due to fog.

The chopper stayed in the swamp for two hours before it took off and landed on the Karatina-Mukurweini road a few minutes later. "This weather is too bad for me. I had to look for a safe place to do a cushion landing in order to save our lives because I could hardly see. My 40-year experience has helped me so much today," said the 75-year-old pilot, who looked shaken.

Root's children, Myles, 11, and Rory, nine, 9, pupils of the Banda School, said they were glad to be safe. "This is normal for us as we are used to flying and landing whenever the weather gets foggy. We shall reach Nairobi," said Myles. Speaking at the scene where hundreds of residents had gathered, area DC Mohammed Barre urged locals not to panic as the pilot had landed for safety and was waiting for the weather to clear up before he took off.

An ambulance was available although nobody was injured during the incident. The helicopter remained parked on the road for about an hour, causing a traffic jam. Nyeri county is usually foggy and misty in the mornings making it difficult for drivers and pilots to see. Roots, a wildlife filmmaker, said that the weather was good when he left Isiolo but worsened towards Karatina. He said his Hughes 500 helicopter with a four passenger capacity had no mechanical problems.A helicopter crash in Ngong forest on June 10 killed Internal Security minister George Saitoti, his assistant Orwa Ojode and four others.

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