THE SAITOTI CHOPPER CRASH: The Saga Starts Proper as Witnesses “Disappear”

By Ally Jamah

Police are claiming they cannot trace four people who were first at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed former Internal Security Minister George Saitoti and his deputy Joshua Ojode.

The claims emerged during hearings at the Commission of Inquiry probing the crash in Nairobi, on Tuesday. The police officer who was charged with investigating the crash said he believed the four witnesses may have crucial testimonies.














Ngong Divisional Criminal Investigation Officer (DCIO) Julius Emase, who was among the first police officers to arrive at the scene inside Kibiku Forest, said he met five people running from the crash scene when he arrived with other officers, but four remain unidentified.

He indicated that police have only questioned and recorded a statement from one person, Salim Montet, whom they found at the scene of the crash.

“We have made a lot of efforts to trace the witnesses, but we have not found them. We are still looking. I don’t know why they don’t want to reveal what they know,” said Emase.

In his testimony last week, Montet said he saw the plane hit a tree near his compound moments before it crashed under a trail of smoke and fire. He then rushed to the scene “together with some neighbours.”

“I found the pilot Gituanja still alive struggling to free herself from the seat, but the fire was too intense for us to save her. I only managed to retrieve four magazines containing bullets. We were then chased away by police officers who arrived at the scene,” said Montet.

More mystery

At the centre of the mystery is the status of the crash victims moments after the crash as well as the fate of the briefcase belonging to Saitoti that could not be found. The briefcase is believed to have contained cash.

Police are also trying to trace guns that the bodyguards and pilots may have been carrying. Saitoti and Ojode may also have been carrying guns. “So far, we have recovered only one firearm. We wonder what happened to the rest,” said Emase.

It is not clear why the police have not asked Montet to identify the other witnesses. “We would wish to have the other four witnesses who may have important information regarding the crucial moments before and after the crash,” said Lead Assisting Counsel of the Commission Lucy Kambuni.

On Tuesday, Emase also revealed he was not informed about the collection, transportation and testing of blood and tissue specimens for Saitoti and pilots Nancy Gituanja and Luke Oyugi Oyugi to the Government chemist.

This was done by Assistant DCIO Ngong Moses Mwangi, who is supposed to report to Emase in line with the police chain of command.

The collection of the specimens and results have become subjects of controversy after it confirmed that Oyugi had fatal levels of carbon monoxide poisoning in his blood.

Lawyers of the victims have doubts over the accuracy of the results and have made public their intention to call for retesting by independent laboratories.

On Tuesday, it also emerged that the helicopter instructor and examiner Captain Charles Wachira who passed out pilots Gituanja and Oyugi was not qualified under the regulations of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), which appointed him.

It appeared that KCAA may have violated its own regulations in appointing Wachira in the job, an assertion that was downplayed by its lawyer Gerishom Otachi.

Courtesy of Standard Media Group (Standard Digital)


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