|Kenya Police Airwing Deputy Commandant Johnson Mwangi. [Photo: Collins Kweyu/Standard]|
By Ally Jamah
The commission investigating the helicopter deaths of Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, his assistant Orwa Ojode, their bodyguards and pilots learnt of a mysterious engineer who “repaired” the chopper two days before it crashed.
Deputy Commandant and Chief Engineer of the Kenya Police Airwing Johnson Gathatu Mwangi told the Justice Kalpana Rawal-led Commission that he does not know the man who conducted the crucial repairs in the chopper or whether he was qualified to do the job.
By virtue of his position, Mwangi was present when the unknown man replaced a faulty system that controls the functioning of the engine two days before the ill-fated crash.
The mysterious man worked with another engineer named Aristides , who was officially appointed by the manufacturers of the helicopter to help the police repair and service the plane during the one-year period of warranty. Mwangi said he does not know Aristide’s second name.
“I do not know the man. Aristides, who had unsuccessfully tried to repair faults in the system that controls the engine brought him in. He said the man was a specialist,” Mwangi told the commission sitting at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi.
Under cross-examination from lawyer Ken Ogeto of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), Mr. Mwangi also said he didn’t know if the mysterious engineer was qualified or approved by the KCAA.
Ogeto wondered how the chief engineer would allow a “stranger” to repair a police helicopter and without ascertaining his qualifications of executing his work.
Identity and qualifications
“Were you not worried that Aristides was calling somebody you don’t know at all to look at the aircraft that is the property of the State?” he asked.
The hangar at Wilson Airport in Nairobi where police helicopters are stored and serviced is a security zone that requires individuals accessing it to first get special clearance.
“Aristides made the decision himself to call the other engineer, I did not authorise him to do so. It was an arrangement between the two gentlemen. Engineers often help each other,” replied Mwangi.