Divers comb waters in search of five people feared dead in weekend tragedy

Veronica Muthoni one of the five people involved in the helicopter accident at Lake Nakuru. Photo:Kipsang Joseph/Standard

Investigators said an analysis of debris from the helicopter that crashed at Lake Nakuru suggests the pilot might have hit a tree first before it tumbled down.

Aircraft investigators who are taking part in the recovery mission said preliminary investigations after analysing parts of the chopper recovered yesterday on the shores of the lake indicated the pilot hit a tree before crashing into the lake.

“From the recovered parts, it is almost clear the pilot hit something before the crash,” said an investigator on condition of anonymity.

The investigators recovered a briefcase on Sunday belonging to the pilot, a first aid box, ear phones, the plane’s chair, plane’s door, logbook, a pair of shoes and some pieces of the aircraft bearing the writing 5Y. 

The bodies of the five on board the ill-fated chopper are yet to be recovered.

It has emerged that a female passenger who was among five hails from Bahati Sub-county. According to a friend, who identified herself as Esther, Veronicah Muthoni is a caterer in a hotel in Nakuru town.

Social media

She said she was shocked to see reports of the chopper crash in the social media.

“I learnt that my friend had been involved in the crash from my Facebook account. I tried to contact her but her phone was not going through,” she said.

Muthoni’s brother, Njuguna Wachira, said the family was still in shock and would respond to questions after the recovery mission was done.

“At this point, we cannot say anything,” he said.

Those who were in the ill-fated helicopter include the pilot Apollo Malowa, Anthony Kipyegon from Rongai, Sam Gitau who resides in Nakuru, John Mapozi from Molo and Muthoni.

The helicopter crashed while the five were conducting an aerial tour of Lake Nakuru very early morning on Saturday after a night out.

William Ngugi, father of Gitau, said he last spoke to him on Saturday morning.

The rescue mission began at around 6am conducted by Kenya Navy in collaboration with a team of fishermen from Lake Naivasha.

The park’s senior warden Samuel Tokore said the rescue mission delayed after incident occurred because of lack of boats at the salty water lake. Tokore said the water body is an Important Bird Area (IBA) that does not allow any activity within the lake.

“We have no boats around here because of the classification of the lake,” said Tokore.

Jonathan Keritich from the National Disaster Centre told The Standard  they identified six oil spill spots that had been marked for further searches.

“We can only conduct the search until 6pm. When night falls we will be forced to suspend it until tomorrow,” said Keritich.

Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko yesterday joined leaders in condoling with the families and friends of the crash victims. Sonko said he personally knew Captain Malowa and two other passengers, Mapozi and Gitau.

“They were not only ardent supporters of President Kenyatta and myself, but also worked tirelessly in the last and the ongoing campaigns,” said Sonko.