Written by Carolyn Wamalwa
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Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday led Members of Parliament, family, friends, colleagues and members of public in eulogizing the two pilots and two bodyguards who died early this month after a police helicopter crashed in Kibiku area of Ngong’ killing Internal security minister George Saitoti, his deputy Orwa Ojode, pilots Nancy Gituanja and Luke Oyugi and aides Sergeant Thomas Murimi and Inspector Joshua Tongei.
In his speech, Odinga condoled with the family and praised the late for their dedicated service and promised that thorough investigations will be carried out by both forensic experts as well as the team mandated to execute the public inquiry to determine the cause of the crash.
“On behalf of government, I pass my condolences to the family of the departed who left us a week ago. Life is valuable; the deaths are a big loss to the country. The ongoing investigations will be conducted in a thorough and open manner possible to enable us get to the bottom of the mystery which has robbed us of our devoted officers,” he said.
Subsequently, the Government finalized the constitution of the panel tasked with investigation into the circumstances surrounding the chopper crash.
Foreign experts join probe team
Prime Minister Raila Odinga told a press conference at his office that the team is expected to be gazette by Tuesday before taking oath of office on Wednesday this week.
He said the public inquiry under the leadership the Court of Appeal Judge Justice Kalpana Rawal will be conducted within the regulations of the Civil Aviation accidents.
The Premier said two South African aviation experts led by Chris Briers will join the panel to represent the families of the deceased.
Two French aviation experts will sit in the panel to represent the manufacturers and the French government at the thirteen member panel.
Attorney General Githu Muigai however, informed the media briefing that two of the affected families wanted their legal representatives included in the probe.
The terms of reference of the inquiry were also released as the government assured the families of the deceased and any interested parties that the findings will be made public upon conclusion of the probe.
Odinga said the Probe will cover the procedures surrounding the procurement and purchase of the ill fated chopper and establish the causes that led to the fatal accident.
He said the team is expected to investigate the servicing, maintenance, usage and storage of the Euro copter AS 350 B3 prior to the crash and review the flight control data from the Wilson Control tower.
The Premier announced that the Transport Minister Amos Kimunya will henceforth be the government spokesman on any development concerning the matter.
Other members of the panel include Maj Gen Harold Tongai, Charles Wandiri, Peter Maranga Aggrey Opot while assisting counsel s appointed are James Muingai from the director of public prosecution.
The Attorney General’s office has seconded Mr. Charles Mutinda and Faith Irari.
Chief Inspector of Aircraft Accidents Clatus Macowenga will also sit in the panel.
Last Monday, a five person team led by appeal court judge Kalpana Rawal, Faith Irari, George McOwenga, Major General Harold Tangai and Charles Mutinda were appointed to lead the public inquiry into the Sunday morning helicopter crash.
During Monday’s interdenominational prayers held at Nairobi’s All Saints’ Cathedral Church, Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere regretted the loss of his staff and expressed his outmost sympathy to the families of the departed.
Iteere further explained how the four officers were dedicated to the police service and that they were passionate about their job, quashing rumors that the pilots were not well trained and that planes from the police air wing were not well maintained.
“I have no doubt in my mind that the pilots were qualified in all respect. From the eulogies which have been read, you have heard that all of them had over 1000 flight hours,” he said.
He added that the police air wing is one of the trusted, safest and longest in service departments in the history of the country.
Iteere further remembered body guards Tonkei and Murimi as dedicated workers, both whom he said had diligently served in the VIP and presidential escort units.
The late Nancy Gituanja as well as Thomas Murimi will be buried at Kandara in Murang’a and Kuria West on Tuesday respectively, whereas Joshua Tonkei will be laid to rest in his Olokurto home in Narok on Wednesday and Luke Oyugi in Banana, Siaya on Thursday.
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