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Source of part put in chopper unknown

By Ally Jamah | September 22nd 2012

By Ally Jamah

An engineer could not identify the source of a key component of the engine of the helicopter replaced two days before it crashed.

The ill-fated chopper crashed on June 10 killing Internal Security minister George Saitoti and five others.

During hearings by the team probing the crash on Friday, Kenya Police Airwing Engineer Michael Wafula said a replacement of the Electronic Engine Control Unit (EECU) was brought by another engineer called Chris Venter but could not confirm its source and whether it was new or not.

Mr Wafula was present when the replacement was done by Chris Venter, an engineer from the manufacturers of the plane’s engine on June 7, three days before the crash at Kibiku area in Ngong’.

The component, which controls all aspects of the engine, was replaced after allegedly developing a defect.

In his testimony, Wafula said Venter was invited to the job by a Eurocopter engineer, Aristides.

“The defect was noted on May 31 and Aristides called Venter, who came with another EECU on June 7. He replaced it and left. I don’t know where he got it from,” he said.

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Eurocopter was mandated to maintain the plane for one year under warranty but Wafula could not confirm whether the engine manufacturers had any formal arrangements with the Police Airwing to do any work on the helicopter. This was after questioning by lawyer Ken Ogeto, representing the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.

Contradictions about the training that police engineers received after the plane was brought into the country on December 7, last year caused consternation at the commission.

Wafula had claimed the training, on how to conduct flight inspections, had taken three hours, in contradiction to his written statement, which said two hours. Another technician Humphrey Bulimu, who appeared before him said the training had taken only just one hour.

This anomaly emerged after cross-examination from lawyer Fred Ngatia, who represents the family of the late Saitoti.

It also emerged the security of the Kenya Police Airwing hangar where the chopper was parked was under the airwing itself and not the Airport Police Unit.

The inquiry has also heard, previously, that Bulimu checked the helicopter on the the morning of the crash despite being unlicenced.

The crash also killed Saitoti’s deputy  Orwa Ojode, police pilots Nancy Gituanja and Luke Oyugi as well bodyguards Joshua Tonkei and Thomas Murimi.

The hearings continue on Monday.

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