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Army starts chopper crash probe

By | May 28th 2009

By Standard Team

Senior military officers were sent to Hulugho, Ijara District, where an Army helicopter crashlanded on Tuesday, injuring three.

This happened even as more soldiers were moved to the district. Soldiers from the 77 Artillery Battalion in Mariakani, Mombasa, were moved to the area.

Witnesses said the soldiers were moved in Kenya Navy vehicles.

Other soldiers, who were accompanied by the deputy Army commander, were flown from Nairobi’s Embakasi garrison to back up those from Mombasa.

Several soldiers, led by the Deputy Army Commander Njuki Mwaniki, were flown and driven to the area as investigators started piecing together clues on how the plane came down.

The Department of Defence yesterday said the chopper had crash-landed after developing a mechanical breakdown. DoD Spokesman Bogita Ongeri disputed yesterday’s story in ‘The Standard’ that the helicopter had been shot at before it got to the Hulugho Military camp.

In a press statement, Mr Ongeri said the chopper was flying from the Kiunga Military Camp to Garissa via Hulugho when it developed a mechanical problem.

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Back on duty

"The forced landing was not fatal, all the three passengers on board only sustained minor injuries. In fact, one is already back on duty," he said.

On Tuesday, Ongeri had said the chopper was patrolling the area when it crashed.

The Hughes-MD500 chopper came down in Hulugho at around 2.30pm on Tuesday.

Sources had told ‘The Standard’ that the pilots had informed those who went to their rescue that there was a bang on the chopper before it came down near the Hulugho base.

The injured were airlifted to Nairobi’s Forces Memorial Hospital soon after the incident.

The two pilots injured during the incident are still undergoing treatment at the hospital. Top army commanders visited them. Some commanders at DOD held meetings for the better part of yesterday and it is believed the issue featured.

Hulugho is only 17km from the border with Somalia, which has been without a stable government since the ouster of Siad Barre in 1991. The Al-Shabaab militants are in control of most Somalia towns along the border. with Kenya.

Several Army choppers patrol the area, but they usually fly at high altitude for lack of ground personnel’s support.

They usually operate from Isiolo Barracks and Nairobi’s Embakasi Garrison, the headquarters of the Kenya Army flying section.

The plane mishap happened just a day after four hooded gunmen kidnapped a Somali cleric from a Kenyan refugee camp.

Patrols at the expansive border have been intensified in recent months as fighting between Somali government soldiers and militants intensify.

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