Kenya: Ill-Fated Helicopter Flew Without Navigation Facilities

The ill-fated helicopter that crashed on Sunday night in Central Island, Turkana, was re-assembled in Ruiru, and had only flown for six months, the Nation can reveal.

The helicopter, which was exclusively used for VIP transport, was the first of the Bell manufactured type in Africa, according to its manufacturer, Bell Company.

According to the company, the helicopter was shipped from Bell's facility in Mirabel, Canada, and delivered in September last year at the newly established Kenya Civil Aviation Authority facility in Ruiru, where it was reassembled.

"After re-assembly, the Bell 505 was flown by KIDL (the company operating the ill-fated chopper) Chief Executive Officer Captain Marco Brighetti to Wilson Airport in Nairobi to begin VIP transport operations.

"Bell is excited that the aircraft has landed in Kenya and we are looking forward to having many more flying all over the continent. Stay tuned for updates on the Bell 505 entering the market Africa," a communication issued in September 2018 by Bell Independent Representative, Africair, reads.

US CITIZENS

Air accident investigators over the fatal helicopter crash continued Tuesday with several issues coming up, including whether its pilot captain Mario Magonga, a war veteran, was certified to fly at night.

The Nation also learnt that detectives from the National Police Service were taking an active role in the investigations as part of security measures and due to the profile of the passengers that the helicopter carries.

Mr Magonga was a frequent pilot of Deputy President (DP) William Ruto and the DP uses helicopters associated with the company for his travels.

Alongside Mr Magonga, the American embassy revealed that three US citizens - Anders Asher Jesiah, Kyle Forti and Brandon Howe Stapper - also died in the crash.

PROBE PARAMETERS

Investigators, who are at the crash site, revealed that Mr Magonga flew the helicopter at night in a bush without navigation facilities, contrary to civil aviation regulations.

"We started investigations on Monday at the crash site and we hope to finalise them tomorrow. We will find out whether the aircraft was equipped and certified to fly at night, and if the pilot was certified to fly at night," Captain Martyne Lunani, the director of Aircraft Accident Investigation Department, told the Nation.

He said that air accident investigators could also look at factors like the air worthiness of the helicopter, the pilot's licence, weather, planning of the flight and air operators' certificate before coming up with a possible reason on why the helicopter crashed.

The fatal helicopter, a Bell 505X, costing about Sh450 million, came tumbling down on Sunday night at Central Island, an area made up of three active volcanoes which emit sulphurous smoke and steam, adding to the gem that is the blue-green waters of Lake Turkana.

REPUBLICAN

Whereas the Bell 505 X went down, another helicopter which it was flying with, a Robinson 44 model, made it to the destination, Lobolo camp situated at Central Island.

According to aviation experts, the Robinson 44 is among the latest productions and has been operational in Kenya for about a year. The helicopter is manufactured in the US and Canada.

Profiles of the three Americans who died painted a picture of moneyed-fast rising figures in political circles.

The 29-year old Forti was described as a prolific figure in Colorado Republican politics who run a political and public affairs firm in the US.

"Forti ran Republican Brian Watson's campaign for Colorado treasurer last year. His death prompted an outpouring of sympathy from the State's conservative and political circles, Colorado Sun, his hometown newspaper, reported.

ENTREPRENEUR

The Colorado Public radio described him as a prominent conservative political strategist.

Mr Stapper is described as a leading entrepreneur running several companies like Crown Growth, a boutique equity company, 858 Graphics which does marketing, and Non Stop Signs, a company that deals with branding and signage.

According to the website, Mr Stapper sits on the board of the Entrepreneur Organisation and he is a board member of the FBI Citizens Academy that supports FBI community outreach.

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