The eight survivors were rescued from the wreckage 36 hours after the crash. They were all from the third chopper, which was found overturned at the base of a nearby valley.
They were spotted away from the crash scene at 7am. “From the scene it appears that the soldiers were safe and were possibly walking to safety,” said Ogolla. But the Kenyan Military and their Ugandan counterparts remained tight-lipped on whether heavy artillery was lost in the crash.
An official involved in the operation said the rescuers did not go near the burnt helicopters for fear the ammunition could explode.
“We saw large containers that appeared to have ammunition and other military paraphernalia, which we thought was dangerous,” said the official, who did not want to be named. The missing choppers were located about 1,200 feet up the mountain. According to one of the officers involved in the rescue operation, one of the choppers was a burnt out shell. It appeared it burst into flames before it crashed, as its destroyed parts were scattered at the scene.
The helicopter number AF 808 bearing Ugandan colours was still smouldering when the rescuers arrived at the scene at 7.30pm. The intensity of the fire at the crash scene was evident. There were twisted metals strewn around the site with vegetation seared by fire. The other was found hanging on a cliff. Unlike the previous day when those rescued were flown to a Nanyuki private airstrip, Tuesday the survivors were taken to the Laikipia KDF Air Base.
The Kenyan military, responding to concerns raised about the level of their involvement in rescue mission, said it was in charge of the evacuation. Kenya Air Force called a rare press conference at the Laikipia Air Base where it gave a chronology of events leading to the crash.
“We have been co-ordinating the rescue efforts together with Kenya Wildlife Service and Tropic Air,” Brigadier Ogolla told the media, in reference to the heroic forays a private citizen, Captain Ben Simpson, had made to the first crash site and saved first batch of Ugandan soldiers on Monday.
Brigadier Moses Rwakitarate of the Ugandan People’s Defence Air Force was present at the briefing. Ogolla explained a combined team of Kenya Army, Kenya Air Force, KWS, and Tropic Air Aviation Services were involved in the rescue since Monday.
Brigadier Ogolla said six helicopters were being used in the rescue. “We used Tropic Air because it has a fleet of small helicopters that are capable of landing in a small place. Some of our military helicopters that headed for the scene were not able to land there,” he said.
— Additional reporting by Cyrus Ombati and Steve Mkawale.