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Hunger pangs drive locals to anger during crashed FlySax plane rescue mission

RIFT VALLEY
By Graham Kajilwa | June 9th 2018
Eric Wafula Wanyonyi, left, father to one of the victims of the plane crash after viewing the body of his son, Robinson Wafula at the Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi yesterday. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

A teenage boy trotted panting heavily as he approached a Kenya Forest Service (KFS) Land Cruiser.

On his shoulder he had a silver metal box, whose weight was clearly taking a toll on him.

He was tired, sweating and was relieved when an officer in jungle green uniform took the box before he could even put it down.

The officer appeared smitten with it.

“Ngoja, hii ndiyo black box (Wait, this is the black box),” he said before instructing his colleagues to take photos of him holding it as he smiled for the cameras.

While this might have been an innocent search for a moment of fame, his move angered other officers describing him as cheeky.

“You know, that guy has no idea how sensitive that thing is. If it is found tampered with or it gets lost, that photo will sell him out,” said one of his colleagues.

By that time, the boy who carried the silver box from the ill-fated plane that crashed on Tuesday 5pm had disappeared into the crowd, oblivious of how important what he was carrying is.

His worry, just like some 120 other locals who assisted in the rescue mission was a good meal and “something small” as a token of appreciation as promised by the rescuers.

Apparently, the locals had been psyched up by the disaster team to join in the search and promised food once they got to Elephant Hill where the wreckage was.

They were ready to help with evacuating the ten bodies trapped in the wreckage of the Cessna 5Y-CAC light craft.

“We are well prepared, we have seven helicopters that will assist in the search and rescue once the weather clears,” said Nyandarua County Commissioner Boas Cherotich when the rescue mission started on Wednesday.

But for two days, the weather never cleared, and the choppers were of no help. Even when the wreckage was found at 12:37pm, it was still foggy and the only option was to carry the bodies downhill over 3,600 feet to the South Kinangop Forest Station.

The team from the National Disaster Management Unit was prepared to show the country their unmatched skills, but without the locals, they could not have succeeded in recovering the bodies.

“I was born here. I am one of those who planted trees in this forest during our school days. There is no path in this forest we do not know,” said 32-year-old John Njoroge.

During the six-hour journey uphill, there were three stops for them to rest but no food as Njoroge later found out.

It is the hunger and thirst that made one of the rescuers collapse when the first batch of the bodies arrived at South Kinangop Forest Station at ten minutes past 5pm.

The locals were later told to converge at the County Commissioner’s office in Njabini for food. But once they got there, there was nothing for them.

They later tried to block the road in protest of being shortchanged. They wanted to ensure the vehicles carrying the bodies did not pass unless their efforts were compensated.

Their act forced the area authority to beef up security and provide escort for the vehicles ferrying the bodies.

Yesterday at the Lee Funeral Home, tears flowed freely as families identified the remains of their loved ones who perished in the Tuesday crash.

An official from FlySAX, Mohammed Ahmed said all the ten bodies had been identified.

Among the bereaved was Eric Wafula Wanyonyi who was inconsolable after viewing the body of his first born son, Robinson Wafula.

“We cannot speak much during this time. We thank the Government for assisting us. Despite the bad weather, they were able to get the bodies,” Wanyonyi said. [Additional reporting by Michael Chepkwony]

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