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 Foul play in chopper crash allege MPs

Foul play in chopper crash allege MPs

Four legislators questioned events leading to helicopter accident that killed ministers, pilots and bodyguards. Addressing a news conference at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi, MPs Gideon Konchella (Kilgoris), Ephraim Maina (Mathira), Nkoidila ole Lankas (Narok South) and Raphael Letimalo (Samburu East) said the government should have a public inquest into the crash, and include the families of the ministers, pilots and bodyguards.

By Line : Nation Team

Posted : 13-06-2012

Last Modified : 23-08-2012

Foul play in fatal chopper crash allege MPs

Four MPs have alleged foul play in the helicopter crash that killed Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, his assistant Joshua Orwa Ojodeh and four other government officials.

Addressing a news conference at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi, MPs Gideon Konchella (Kilgoris), Ephraim Maina (Mathira), Nkoidila ole Lankas (Narok South) and Raphael Letimalo (Samburu East) said the government should have a public inquest into the crash.

The families of the ministers, their bodyguards and the pilots should also be let to join the inquiry so that, when the results are released, they are convinced that it is a true reflection of the inquest, they said.

Mr Konchella said the inquest should be held to answer the questions that the public is asking about the helicopter crash.

“As far as we are concerned, there are more questions than answers. We’d want to know who serviced the aircraft, if it was serviced; what instruments are inbuilt in it?

“Why was it flying so low? Why did it turn back when we all know that a helicopter can land anywhere? Was someone controlling the aircraft from somewhere else?” Mr Konchella posed.

The Kilgoris MP said that he flew with Prof Saitoti a few weeks back and he was told that pilots fly to Rironi to get the bearings to Bomet and Ndhiwa, and that there was no point of the helicopter going to Ngong.

Mr Maina, who owns a helicopter, said that the bits and pieces surrounding the helicopter crash did not add up.

Frequent flyer

“As a frequent flyer in a helicopter, I have my doubts. What is this that happened so suddenly that the pilot of the aircraft was not even able to contact the control tower?

“How did the helicopter just come down like a stone?” posed Mr Maina, who is also the chairman of the Central Kenya Parliamentary Group. He said there was no point in having an inquiry that does not reveal the “truth”.

He said the government should get certified aircraft investigators to lead the inquiry.

The government has already picked Court of Appeal Judge Kalpana Rawal to head the investigations, with a former Kenya Air Force Commander, Maj-Gen Harold Tangai, the Chief Investigator of Aircraft Accidents, Mr Clatus Macowenga, and state counsels Charles Mutinda and Faith Irari as members.

Thorough investigations

Mr Lankas also labelled the accident a “mystery” and called for “thorough, exhaustive and convincing” investigations.

“This crash is not ordinary; it is not normal; there are a lot of grey areas that need to be covered. This should be looked at from all angles,” Mr Lankas said. He took issue with the government call for calm.

“You cannot intimidate people by telling them ‘don’t talk’ yet you’re not giving them answers,” he said.

The MP said the Transport ministry should be told to work harder because of the rise in the number of accidents on the roads and now those that involve prominent people who opt for air transport.

“Many MPs and ministers have cheated death many times. Accidents happen when they’re accidents, not when they’ve been caused,” Mr Lankas said.

Mr Letimalo said only thorough investigations would clear the confusion regarding the many theories — sabotage, human error and mechanical fault — that are circulating regarding the crash, which also killed pilots Nancy Gituanja and Luke Oyugi, and bodyguards Thomas Murimi and Joshua Tonkei.

Elsewhere, Eldoret North MP William Ruto, who led more than 20 Rift Valley MPs in consoling the bereaved families, asked the government to institute a public enquiry into the crash, saying that a lot of questions needed answers.

“Let an open, thorough and extensive investigation on the cause of the helicopter crash led by professional and credible persons in the aviation sector be established,” Mr Ruto told mourners at Prof Saitoti’s home in Lavington.

He asked Transport Minister Amos Kimunya to invite those with information that could lead to unravelling what went wrong to come forward.

His message to the families of Mr Ojodeh and Mr Tonkei was laced with the same call for thorough investigations into the crash, adding that the public inquiry should involve the families of the victims.

“Let this not become another government secret investigation but let it be open and thorough to explain to everyone exactly what happened,” Mr Ruto said.

Technical data of the plane from the manufacturer show that the AS350 B3e police air-wing helicopter was equipped with an instrument used in relaying signals to the control tower.

Aviation experts said that data transmitted to the control tower by the gadget known as a transponder would provide investigators with clues on how the plane went down.

“A transponder gives signals to the people on the ground where the plane is and the height it is cruising at. For example it shows that the plane is 60 miles away cruising at 30,000 feet,” a pilot, who did not wish to be named, said.

He added that a blackbox was normally fitted on commercial planes, but it was an expensive installation for non-commercial aircraft. The Police Air Wing Commandant Rodgers Mbithi told the Nation on Tuesday that the ill-fated plane was not fitted with a black box.

“This type of a helicopter is small and did not have the black box,” Mr Mbithi said. According to the technical data of the plane from the manufacturer, other instruments and avionics include altitude encoder, emergency locator transmitter, fire detection system, air-intake protection grids and altimeter.

Mr Mbithi also explained that the police helicopter was bought through open and competitive tender. “The tender was floated last year for companies that met the qualifications,” he said.

 

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