Top State officials who have perished in aircraft accidents

Privately-owned, police and military aircrafts have been involved in Kenya's aircrash tragedies.

In Summary
  • Former Eastern Provincial Commissioner Ishmael Chelang'a perished in helicopter crash in Marsabit in 1996.
  • On June 10, 2012, a police chopper claimed the life of then internal minister George Saitoti and his assistant minister Orwa Ojode.
The wreckage of the chopper that claimed the lives of former Internal Security Minister George Saitoti and Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode and their bodyguards and pilots on June 10, 2012.
The wreckage of the chopper that claimed the lives of former Internal Security Minister George Saitoti and Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode and their bodyguards and pilots on June 10, 2012.
Image: FILE

The latest military chopper crash in West Pokot that claimed the lives of senior military officials including Chief of Defence Forces Francis Ogolla has evoked memories of previous air accidents within the Kenyan airspace.

A series of chopper crashes over the years has left a dark mark in the country’s political landscape and the disciplined forces, raising questions about safety and operational standards.

Private choppers and those owned by Police and the military have been involved in Kenya's aircrash tragedies, often times evoking emotional reactions.

As the nation mourns the loss of the military chiefs, we delve into the history of previous air crashes involving government officials and examine the causes and impact. 

April 18, 2024

A military chopper carrying 12 people including military officers of the rank of General crashed Thursday afternoon in Kaben, Marakwet East, in Elgeyo Marakwet County.

The Kenya Air Force Huey Helicopter had taken off from a local primary school when it went down and burst into flames.

Witnesses said it burst into flames on impact.

Among those on board was Chief of Defence Forces Francis Ogolla.

Initial police reports said there was only one survivor believed to be a photographer.

June 10, 2012

On the chilly Sunday morning of June 10, 2012, the then Internal Security Minister George Saitoti met his death after a police Eurocopter AS-350 model he was flying in crashed deep inside Kibiko forest in Ngong.

The accident happened shortly after 9am, just 10 minutes after taking off from Wilson Airport.

Saitoti perished alongside his assistant, Orwa Ojode.

Also dead on impact were two pilots and two bodyguards who were onboard the chopper with Saitoti and Ojode for a Harambee in Ndhiwa, Homa Bay County.

On the controls were Captain Luke Oyugi and Nancy Gituanja.

Inspector Joshua Tonkei and Sergeant Thomas Murimi were the police bodyguards.

June 10, 2008

On this day, former Roads minister Kipkalya Kones alongside Sotik MP Lorna Laboso died after their plane crashed in Kojong’a area in Narok.

The aircraft, 5Y-BVE, crashed just 20 minutes after take-off from Wilson Airport.

The pilot and owner of the aircraft, Christoph Maria Schnerr, and the minister’s bodyguard, Kenneth Bett also perished.

April 10, 2006

On this day, a military cargo plane carrying a high-level Kenyan delegation on a peace mission crashed in Marsabit while attempting to land, killing 14 people including five MPs.

The plane is said to have hit a hill as a result of bad weather.

A provincial official and two crew members aboard the Chinese-made Y-12 aircraft were rescued from the crash site, on a hillside near the town of Marsabit.

One additional passenger was recovered from the fiery wreckage, but died en route to Nairobi for treatment.

"This is the worst tragedy to hit the National Assembly," said then Speaker Francis ole Kaparo, while announcing the adjournment of Parliament until all the deceased were buried.

"We have lost a lot of good people," Kaparo said.

MPs who perished in the accident were Bonaya Godana (North Horr), Guracha Galgalo (Moyale), Abdi Sasura (Saku), Titus Ngoyoni (Laisamis), Abdullahi Adan (EALA) and the then Internal Security Assistant Minister Mirugi Kariuki.

January 24, 2003

Labour minister Ahmed Khalif perished in a plane crash in Busia as several other dignitaries including ministers-Raphael Tuju (Tourism), Linah Kilimo (Office of the President), and Martha Karua (Water) survived.

Two pilots also died in a nearby hospital where they had been rushed shortly after the 5pm crash.

The government officials had attended a homecoming party for then vice-president Moody Awori at his Funyula home.

July 7, 1996

On this day, former Eastern Provincial Commissioner Ishmael Chelang'a perished in helicopter crash in Marsabit.

He was aged 40.

The accident occurred three minutes after take-off from Marsabit Aistrip.

Nine other people including provincial police officer Jadiel Kiraithe, ACK cleric Andrew Adano Tuye, Eastern deputy criminal investigation officer, Johah Kenduiywo, provincial intelligence officer Patrick Nzue and superintendent of police and Samuel Otieno Okal also died in the crash.

The team had toured development projects and held security meetings with officials from Marsabit and Moyale.

An inquiry ordered by late President Daniel Moi found that the aircraft had not been properly serviced.

May 24, 1978

Bruce Mackenzie, the then Agriculture minister and the only white person in late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta's cabinet died in a crash at gong Hills.

It was at the same location that Saitoti died in 2012.

He is said to have been killed when a bomb attached to his aircraft exploded, as he departed a meeting with Amin.

Some sources alleged that the then Ugandan President Idi Amin ordered Ugandan agents to assassinate MacKenzie in retaliation for his involvement with the Entebbe rescue.

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