Kenya: Narok Chopper Crash - Pilot Blames Bad Weather, High Altitude

19 October 2020

The pilot of the helicopter that crash-landed in Narok County with Governor Samuel ole Tunai aboard has blamed the accident on bad weather and high altitude.

Governor Tunai, Narok East MP Lemanken Aramat and their aides cheated death on Saturday when their chopper, hired from the Mara Elephant Project, had an accident in Olkipejus village at about 4.30pm.

"There was no mechanical problem. Nobody was injured as all of us came out well. Things just happened in a blink of an eye and that is it," said the pilot, Marc Goss, yesterday. "I have finished writing the full report on the crash and a team of investigators has instructed me not to talk to the media," he added.

Type-Robinson 44

The chopper, Type-Robinson 44, was to drop the governor in Narok town but failed to take off in five attempts. Mr Tunai was admitted to Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi although an official from the county government said he was out of danger. The governor was leaving the burial of Mzee Tompo ole Sasai in Melili.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has launched a probe into the accident. "The aircraft investigation department of the ministry of Transport Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public works has already initiated the investigation and will inform the public once the investigations are concluded," said KCA Director-General, Captain Gilbert Kabage.

Video footage showing the final moments to the crash depict a clear sky and normal wind currents blowing through the vast wheat fields. The wreckage of the chopper Registration Number 5Y-MEP lay on the field near Olkipejus village, with its tail section cut off from the main body.

The chopper is a regular in the Mara region whenever elephants invade human settlements. Mr Goss is the MEP chief executive, which is involved in driving elephants away from human settlements, real time response to incidents of poaching and wildlife injuries in the Mara and surrounding conservancies.

Human settlements

They have been using the chopper since 2015 and have expanded its operation area for rapid response to poaching, injured wildlife and conflict areas in the 4,000-square-kilometre region.

"It supports our monitoring efforts by marking the collaring of risk elephants to be safer for both the animals and support team. It also helps us collect important data, like herd size and health," said Mr Goss.

Despite having plans of procuring another chopper, the accident is a big blow to the project with elephants facing eminent danger from poachers, he added.

"Although MEP has rangers on ground, the helicopter provides them with aerial support in difficult human-elephant conflict situations. We are able to locate the animals faster and provide a much-needed distraction from the elephant while our rangers on the ground guide them to safety," Mr Goss said.

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