News and Views

Two soldiers dead, Saleh leads probe

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The bodies of at least two UPDF soldiers were yesterday found at the crash scene of two of three military helicopters which went missing on Sunday, Kenyan officials said.

The burnt-out wreckage of one chopper and another of the two previously missing helicopters were located over 11,000 feet up on Mount Kenya but the fate of the seven crew members remains unknown.

Kenya Wildlife Service senior warden in charge of Mount Kenya, Mr Simon Gitau, said yesterday that a search and rescue team found the wreckages barely a kilometre from that one found on Monday.

“We found two bodies, one of the pilot which was still strapped on the seat, and another a few metres away. The helicopter was burnt to ashes in the middle part,” said Mr Gitau.

The dead are said to be an officer at the rank of captain and his co-pilot at the rankof Lieutenant. Daily Monitor cannot reveal the identities of the dead before their families are officially informed.

Eight others were said to have been rescued alive yesterday. State minister for Defence Gen. Jeje Odong yesterday announced at a press conference in Kampala that President Museveni had appointed Gen. Salim Saleh to head an army board of inquiry to investigate the cause of the crash.

Other members of the probe team have not been identified but Gen. Odong said Gen. Saleh will be assisted by the UPDF director of legal services, Col. Ramadhan Kyamulesire.

The military denied reports that wrong route coordinates could have misled the crews to the mountainous area, yet MI-24 choppers are engineered to fly at a relatively low altitude.

The three ill-fated MI-24 attack helicopters were part of a four –unit airbone armada, including an MI-17 transporter which landed safely in Wajir.

The route
The army last evening confirmed that the flight path took them from Soroti to Eldoret-Nanyuki-Garisa-Wajir-Baidoa, route which involved flying over the mountain.
But the alternative route, according to sources, would have been Soroti-Lodwar-Wajir-Baidoa. This route is reportedly shorter and would not involve flying over mountainous areas.

“As far as we know the cause of the accident was bad weather. Any other reason beyond what we know will be found out by the inquiry,” Gen. Odong said.
He added: “Military equipment is not always insured. Therefore the responsibility is with us.”

The M1-17 crew members who safely landed in Wajir are Maj. Charles Okidi (pilot), Capt. Sam Kitegeyi (co-pilot,) Lt. Charles Alemu (flight engineer), WOI George Nakabanda (electrician), WOI Yahaya Wamagari (medical officer), Wilberforce Kalulu (armament technical officer) and Staff Sgt. Coleb Mugwisa (deputy armament officer)
Those who were rescued on Monday include Lt. Col. Chris Kasaija, Lt. Robert Bakasha (co-pilot), Lt. Asaph Barigye (technical officer), Asad Magombe (armament technical officer), WOI Ongaria Patrick (dep. armament officer) and staff sergeant-John Komunda (electrician).

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