Worst air disasters in Kenya’s history, and how survivors cope

Part of the remaining metal from the Police helicopter that crashed at Kibiku forest in Ngong killing six including Internal Security minister Prof George Saitoti./FILE
Part of the remaining metal from the Police helicopter that crashed at Kibiku forest in Ngong killing six including Internal Security minister Prof George Saitoti./FILE

One of the worst air disasters that hit Kenya was KQ flight 431, which killed 169 people out of the 179 people on board.

The aircraft crashed in the oceans of the Atlantic just a few metres from Abidjan, Felix Houphouet Boigny airport, at the Ivory Coast.

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The 9pm crash occurred way back in 2000, on January 30.

The flight was scheduled to head to Nairobi. Most victims, 84, were Nigerian citizens, followed by 20 Kenyans, and the rest were from different countries.

The crash was partly blamed on a pilot error. Of the 10 who survived, one was a Kenyan. The families of the deceased were compensated by the flight’s company.

On April 10, 2006, an air crash killed five MPs. The military flight Y-12 killed 14 people, while three survived.

The plane was flying from Nairobi to Marsabit, where the politicians were heading for a peace meeting.

The victims were former Foreign Affairs minister Bonaya Godana, then assistant ministers Mirugi Kariuki (Internal Security) and Titus Ngoyoni (Regional Development Authorities) and two area MPs Abdi Sasura and Guracha Boru.

Visibility due to bad weather was blamed for the fatal accident, which occurred at 10am.

The accident was tragic to the National Assembly and to Kenya as a country. It was remembered and honoured 10 years later at Marsabit, as political leaders called for peace.

MORE POLITICIANS KILLED

Internal Security minister George Saitoti and assistant minister Orwa Ojode died in a helicopter crash on June 10, 2012.

The helicopter, a Eurocopter AS350, went down in the Ngong forest, Kibiku area, killing all the six people on board.

The other victims were two bodyguards and two pilots.

The aircraft was heading to Ndhiwa, Homa Bay, when it lost control due to a suspected pilot error triggered by bad weather.

The plane took off from Wilson Airport, Nairobi, and the crash happened at around 9am. in yet another air crash, 114 people died on May 5, 2007.

The plane, flight 507, was flying from Doula, Cameroon, heading to Nairobi at around midnight, when it crashed in a mangrove swamp shortly after take-off.

Nine of the victims were Kenyans, while 37 were Cameroonians, the rest from other countries.

The six crew members on the plane were all Kenyans. Before take-off, the flight was delayed for about one hour due to bad weather.

The accident was also blamed on pilot error.

LIFE AFTER PLANE CRASH

Survivors from these tragic moments need a lot of counselling, as they suffer from trauma that could haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Questions arise in survivors’ heads on how it was possible that others died and they did not.

It can be a life-changing moment.

Some feel like it was all a nightmare and they have woken from it.

Maybe some survived but also lost a loved one in the crash, so that is double trauma.

A psychiatrist, Dr Edwin Muinga, said such people are undergoing post-traumatic stress syndrome, which needs months of counselling to ensure one becomes normal again and embraces life as it is.

According to Wikipedia, post-traumatic stress syndrome is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event. This might lead to psychosomatic diseases, which includes hypertension, ulcers, asthma and the like.

“The trauma can also lead to phobia in such a way that when the person sees an airplane or even the word is mentioned to them, they become scared,” Muinga said.

He said victims undergo several sessions and their recovery would depend on how deeply they have been affected, as some get healed more quickly than others.

“They are given supportive psychotherapy, which involves talking to them and giving them medicine where necessary,” the specialist said.

The talking sessions involve relieving the persons of negative feelings, which will help them appreciate life once more and move on.