Family mourns visionary pilot killed in military chopper crash

Major George Benson Kabui Magondu. [Courtesy]

The family of the late Major George Benson Kabui Magondu, the pilot of the ill-fated military chopper, Bell UH-1H Huey II, says he was passionate about his job and aspired to rise to Chief of Defence Forces (CDF).

However, Major Magondu's dreams were shattered after he went down in the military chopper in1 Chesegon along the Elgeyo Marakwet-West Pokot border on April 18.

The helicopter crash also claimed the lives of Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) General Francis Ogolla and nine other officers.

Born on September 21, 1993, Magondu the youngest son in his family went to Moi Forces Academy where he attained an A in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam.

His mother Mary Wambui, says the officer who was passionate about being a pilot from an early age, would later join the military after successfully going through the cadets’ recruitment process which had been advertised in the dailies.

Magondu's mother worked for 25 years at Standard Group PLC, in the Graphic and Design department before she left in 2010

“At Moi Forces Academy where George was brought up, once a plane flew over our houses, George would tell me the type of aircraft. Every time I came home with a newspaper he would look for pictures of aircraft, cut them out and the following day he would request I laminate it for him. That’s how much he loved planes,” recalls the mother about her son's passion of being a pilot.

After successfully pursuing three years of combined military studies and a flying course, Magondu later enrolled for another piloting course in South Africa.

He would be deployed to Laikipia Air Base before he was transferred to Moi Air Base in Nairobi where he worked diligently, attracting the attention of his seniors.

Due to his zeal and passion, Magondu was sponsored to pursue further training and refresher courses in many parts of the world, including the United States of America and Jordan.

He was the official pilot for the late General Ogolla and had been tasked with flying senior government officials including Defense Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

At his young age, he had risen through the ranks from Second Lieutenant, Lieutenant, Captain to Major.

The family says the visionary father of three, including twin boys, aspired to rise to the top of the military and worked with dedication.

“Since his pass out, my son has scaled up the ladder to attain the rank of a Major at only 30 years. He used to tell me, 'Mum, I want to work hard and become Chief of Defence Forces one day.' That was his ultimate goal, but now he is no more,” says Wambui with tears rolling down her cheeks.

When The Standard visited the officer's parents' residence in Murera, Juja, we found the pilot's mother being consoled by neighbours and locals.

The father, Charles Magondu, was away attending a meeting at Kahawa Barracks, Nairobi, where his son and daughter-in-law, Captain Brenda Ikello, resided.

Wambui says the family received the shocking news of their son's death through her daughter-in-law who is also in the military.

“At 30 years Gorge acted like a 40-year-old. He was a family man and he loved his family so much, the kids, the wife he could sacrifice all his time, and money to keep his children and the wife well," she says adding that no one can fill the gap left by Magondu.

She reveals that the officer suffered a deep cut on the forehead and was airlifted for urgent medical attention but did not make it.

Magondu's mother-in-law Maureen Akinyi, says the day he married her daughter he became like her child and the couple visited her often in Nyanza and had planned to return in August.

“I pray that God may guide my daughter who has been left to take care of their three children,” says Akinyi.

Mourners who had turned up to console the family eulogised Magondu as a hardworking, loving, social, caring and visionary officer.

“I knew George as a humble person since he was a very young boy when he was employed in the military and when I needed his help, he was just a call away. Despite his busy schedule, he would help me promptly, indeed I have lost a good friend,” says Boniface Njue, a neighbour.

Magondu will be laid to rest in Kariminu, Laikipia county.