THE family of the late Internal Security minister George Saitoti yesterday claimed sabotage was the likely cause of the June 10 helicopter accident that killed him, assistant minister Orwa Ojode and four other civil servants.
Saitoti family lawyer Fred Ngatia said the family was ready to demonstrate that "strange events" that could have led to the crash.
The family have hired two air crash investigators - Tim Carter from South Africa and Naftali Mwangi, a former Kenya Airways engineer- who have been looking at various reports. They will prepare their own assessment for the Rawal Commission. Ngatia said one of the experts had noticed "strange things" on Friday after perusing the baroscopic inspection report prepared for the commission.
Baroscopes are commonly used to test the pressure of aircraft engines, aeroderivative industrial gas turbines, steam turbines, and diesel engines. One observer told the Star privately that there were indications that the engine pressure had risen excessively after takeoff. Appellate court Justice Kalpana Rawal chaired the first day of the pre-trial conference of the inquiry into the helicopter crash yesterday at KICC.
Ngatia said the length of time of the inquiry could be cut down by reducing the number of witnesses. He said the experts retained by the Saitoti family could demonstrate the events leading to the crash both visually, in writing and publicly to the commission. Saitoti's family also objected to the helicopter parts being flown to France.
"Even if we have a fair clue, we might not want to leave any iota of doubt. Let us subject any recovered item to scientific tests," he said while requesting that the engine of the crashed chopper be stripped locally. "Since the engine will never fly again, we can notify the manufacturers and identify a place either at Jomo Kenyatta or at Wilson where it can be dismantled," he added.
The family suggested that the gearbox be analyzed at the Numerical Machine Complex in Nairobi while the GPS system be taken to the United States. It was also suggested that the Sky Tracker be analyzed in South Africa. The Saitoti family believed that the commission had qualified people locally who could speed up the inquiry. The commission has lined up 187 witnesses for the hearings that might last up to December 16, 2012.
Fifteen will stand in the witness box to explain how the Eurocopter A350 B3 aircraft was procured. They will include supply chain managers at the Office of the President, the Kenya Police and members of tender committees. Also invited to testify are aircraft licensing officers from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority. Another fifteen witnesses are expected to tell the commission how the aircraft was serviced, maintained, stored and used. They include the head of the Kenya Police Airwing Rodgers Mbithi, chief engineers, licensed technicians, manufactures, pilots at the police airwing unit, and the neighbouring airlines at Wilson Airport.
Justice Rawal said the commissioners would meet lawyers representing the families and government agencies to work out a plan to reduce the number of witnesses and speed up the inquiry. Kenya Civil Aviation Authority was represented by lawyers Ken Ogeto and Gerishom Otachi while Maiani Sankale is appearing for the family of the late bodyguard Joshua Tonkei.
Public hearings start officially on July 23 after finalizing the process of taking statements from identified witnesses. Leading counsel Lucy Kambuni said the list of witnesses might go up depending on the input of the public during the hearings.