Lake Nakuru chopper crash bodies yet to be found

Margaret Wairimu (right), the mother of Sam Gitau who is presumed to have died after a helicopter crashed in Lake Nakuru. [File, Standard]
Margaret Wairimu has spent many sleepless nights since she learnt that a helicopter her son was aboard had crashed into Lake Nakuru.

It has been two years since the accident. “Was the search and rescue mission at fault? Is my son alive or is his body lying somewhere,” she poses.

Two years after the chopper plunged into the lake, killing five people on board, families of two of the victims whose bodies are still missing have been through trauma.

Samuel Gitau and John Ndirangu alias Mapozi were aboard the Flex Air Charters helicopter on October 21, together with Veronicah Muthoni, Anthony Kipyegon and Apollo Malowa (pilot).

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While the bodies of the other three were recovered from the lake, those of Gitau and Ndirangu have never been found.

Lake Nakuru covers an area of 45 square kilometres, with an average depth of 2.5 metres.

A part of the ill-fated chopper was found on October 22, 2017. Days later, a unique requiem mass was held on the shores of the lake and the search and rescue called off.

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Last week, The Standard caught up with Wairimu at her house in Langa Langa estate, Nakuru. A portrait of Gitau hangs on the wall of her living room, a stark reminder to the family of the crash that took the life of their loved son.

“My eyes have had tears from the day my son was reported to have been involved in the crash. But again, I hold faint hope that perhaps he will join me someday,” says Wairimu.

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Campaign team

The helicopter that was hired to fly members of the Jubilee Party campaign team headed by Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika had just taken off from Jarika County Lodge in Freehold Estate. It crashed a few minutes later.

Wairimu says though she did not have control over the search operation, she still wishes to have the remains of her son recovered and buried for closure.

Her grief is compounded by the fact that respective agencies have not shared much information with the family since then.

Elsewhere in Mona village, the family of Ndirangu is yet to come to terms with his presumed death.

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“Did my son truly die in the helicopter crash? What is the indication, yet I have not seen his body?” posed his mother Florence Nyambura.

Nyambura told The Standard that during the search mission, she was informed by investigators that her son’s clothes and some body parts were recovered. She hoped to have a DNA test, but that did not happen.

Since the requiem mass was held, Nyambura says she has not had any communication.

“I was positive that I would bury my son after word went round that some body parts had been recovered. That might remain a dream,” said the devastated mother.

Monicah Chepkurui, Anthony’s mother, says the Government should have shared a full report about the crash with families of the victims.

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Expected to know

Chepkurui, a resident of Toniok village in Eldama Ravine, said they expected to know what caused the crash.

Dorothy Malowa, Apollo’s mother, told The Standard the Government agencies in charge of the disaster had not disclosed much information.

According to aircraft investigator Mathias Ombasa, a preliminary report on the crash was two weeks ago forwarded to France, where the helicopter was manufactured, and would be released to the public later.

The investigating officer said most important components of the ill-fated helicopter, including tail boom, were found and were being used to determine what might have triggered the early morning crash.

Richard Tutah, a security expert, said the main challenge in recovery of bodies and the debris of the helicopter was lack of clear command. 

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Plane crashLake NakuruSamuel GitauApollo MalowaJohn Ndirangu