18 December 2012

Kenya: Media Ejected From Saitoti Probe Testimony

MEDIA and members of the public were ejected from the commission of inquiry probing the helicopter crash that killed the Internal Security minister George his assistant Orwa Ojode and four others.

Justice Kalpana Rawal, who is heading the probe team, told journalists and the public to leave when the investigator Clatus Mcowenga took to the stand to give his long awaited testimony yesterday.

She said Mcowenga had requested that he be heard in camera. Commission's Lead Assisting Counsel Lucy Kambuni, had said Mcowenga was scheduled to testify yesterday at the KICC's public gallery.

He however asked at the last minute to present his report in the commission's boardroom away from the public and the media.

Other interested parties in the case and the families' lawyers insisted that the private sessions should be put on record to formalize the proceedings, as they didn't anticipate it.

Earlier in the day Peter Njagi a chief engineer with Lady Lori Kenya Limited who stripped down the engine and gearbox of the ill-fated plane testifying at the commission ruled out a likelihood of fire having started begun from the choppers' gearbox despite having its oil boiling.

"A sensor could have sent alert signals to the pilot if the fire could have been started at the gearbox," he told the commission.

Njagi also rejected allegations that poisonous gas could have been sprayed into the cabin of the aircraft where the passengers and pilots were seated while warming the air in the cabin.

"Air is taken from the atmosphere and warmed through compression before being diluted and directed to the cabin to warm it and make the passengers comfortable," he explained in attempts to dispute previous testimonies that the crash victims had high levels of carbon monoxide gas poisoning.

He said the compressor's blades had been damaged indicating that engine was still running at the time of the crush. He said that if the engine had caught fire detectors fitted in the engine would have alerted the pilot in time for action.

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