Narok Governor Samuel Tunai and two other people escaped death by a whisker when a helicopter crash-landed in Ildamat village, Narok County. Speaking from his hospital bed at the Aga Khan University Hospital yesterday, Mr Tunai described their lucky escape, recalling how the three of them scrambled out of the plane -fearing that it could burst into flames. Had the plane flown about 50 metres away from where it crashed, it could have been a different story because it could have landed in a cliff.
“It was by luck it crashed there and I think the pilot tried to control it at that point. It could have been disastrous had it flown a few metres away from where it crashed,” he told some of the people who visited him in hospital.
He recalled how he, the pilot and his bodyguard rushed out of the plane soon after it crash-landed, fearing it would burst into flames because of a fuel leak. Tunai’s bodyguard Emmanuel Mugalo and the pilot, Mark Goose, escaped with bruises. His family and close friends spent yesterday with him. Visitors thronged his hospital room at the Princess Zahra Pavilion to wish the second-term governor quick recovery. Among them were politicians, governors and MPs.
“The governor is out of danger. He is doing well and he is alert, the doctors have advised that he takes rest,” said an MP who is not authorised to speak on behalf of the family.
Tunai was picked from the scene and driven to Narok town for medical help before being taken to Nairobi where he was admitted to hospital on Saturday night. Doctors were preparing to discharge him, saying he sustained bruises on his body following the crash that was captured on camera by villagers. The governor and his bodyguard were leaving the burial of Tompo ole Sasai, the father of Narok Finance Executive Julius Sasai. Officials have blamed the accident on mechanical problems.
The Robinson R44 helicopter belongs to Karen Blixen Camp Trust. At the point of its takeoff, it was at 8,979 feet which is above its hover ceiling of 8,950 feet. Hover ceiling is the highest altitude above sea level at which a helicopter can hover at maximum computed gross weight.
At the scene of the crash - a wheat farm - there was jet fuel all over and trampled wheat. The wreckage of the helicopter is still at the site. On its website, the Karen Blixen Camp Trust says the helicopter is part of the Mara Elephant helicopter programme that promotes elephant conservation threatened by poaching for illegal ivory, climate change and widespread human-wildlife conflict. The pilot said bad weather played a big part in the accident. The Council of Governors gave a statement that read: “We wish to inform the public that Tunai survived the crash and is currently receiving medical attention.”