Saitoti lawyer opposes flying chopper engine to France
George Saitoti's family lawyer Fred Ngatia yesterday objected to having the engine of the crash helicopter taken to France for stripping as suggested by the chopper's manufacturers. Ngatia objected to the suggestion when he and the team investigating the crash visited the scene of the accident that killed Saitoti, assistant minister Orwa Ojode and four policemen 11 days ago. The team led by Court of Appeal Judge Kalpana Rawal visited the Kibiku forest crash site yesterday afternoon, just hours after they were sworn in by the Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.
The Eurocopter manufacturers who were also at the site proposed transporting the engine parts to France for stripping but Ngatia objected to this saying the family would be flying in two engineers this morning to assist with investigations. The two specialists from South Africa include Chris Briers and another one identified only as Tim and they will be representing the families of the deceased. “We are flying in our two engineers and we insist the parts should not be taken to France,” said Ngatia.
Rawal concurred with the request saying that as the team investigating the crash, they would need to be present from the beginning of the exercise to the end. She said it would be too costly for the entire team to fly to France to meet this aspect of their mandate and said it would therefore serve everyone's interests if the wreckage was stripped in Kenya.
She said the team will map out the scene of the accident on Friday before moving the wreckage on Saturday to Eastleigh Moi Airbase. The wreckage has remained at the scene under police guard. The wreckage will moved to safe storage and the keys to the store will be kept by Rawal team. She said that although she is not a technical person, she will try to be around as much as possible through-out the probe and that nothing will be done without notifying the family members of those who perished.
The investigating team has also brought in French aviation experts representing the manufacturer while the fourth represents the French government. The probe team has representation from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), the Attorney General's office and Directorate of Public Prosecutions office. All members of the investigations team members including Major Gen (rtd) Harold Tangai, Maj (rtd) Charles Muyehe Wandiri, Captain Peter Maranga and Aggrey Opot were present during yesterday’s tour.
Others included Faith Irari and Charles Mutinda from he AG's office, James Mungai Warui of the DPP's office and Clatus Macowenga, the Chief Inspector of Aircraft Accidents. Also present were two of Saitoti's brothers. Last week, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the team would not be given a timeline to finish their work. Odinga directed that all communication regarding the crash shall only be given out by Transport Minister Amos Kimunya to avoid contradictions.
The Rawal team is expected to investigate a number of issues including the procedures surrounding the procurement and purchase of the helicopter, establish how the helicopter was serviced since the time it was purchased, usage and storage prior to the June 10 and the possible cause of the accident. The authorities have ruled out bad weather and human error as possible causes leaving engine failure or mechanical problem as possible cause.
However, sources within the team revealed that investigations will start on a clean slate with all theories being taken into consideration. Avation experts have heavily hinted that pilot error as well as bad weather might have caused the accident owing to the manner in which the helicopter came down. The chopper came crashing down at one spot within the forest and is suspected it landed up-side down thereby causing extensive damage to the engine
Saitoti and Ojode were headed to Ndhiwa for a funds drive in aid of a church. Both men were accorded state burials last week at their homes in Kajiado and Ndhiwa, respectively. The pilot Nancy Gituanja and two of Saitoti's bodyguards Joshua Tongei and Timothy Murimi were buried early this week. The co-pilot Luke Oyugi will be buried this weekend.