Details surrounding the Lake Nakuru helicopter crash emerged on Saturday as witnesses revealed the last minute movement of the five people on board when it crashed.
The victims — three men linked to campaign team of Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, a pilot and a woman were allegedly on a tour of the town in the early morning hours before they boarded the ill-fated plane.
The victims have been identified as Anthony Kipyegon, Sammy Gitau, John Mapozi, Apollo Maloa (pilot) and a lady identified as Veronicah. By the time of going to press, the bodies of the five had not been recovered. The search was called off until today.
Witness accounts show the crash happened few minutes after 6am after the pilot took off at Jarika County Lodge, at Freehold Estate in Nakuru town. According to multiple sources who talked to the The Sunday Standard, the five checked into Jarika County Lodge at 6am and boarded the helicopter which has been stationed at the hotel and flew off to an unknown destination.
Information from hotel attendants indicate the four men who boarded the helicopter had booked rooms in the lodge on Friday evening. The four later left the lodge and headed to town.
“They arrived here at around six in the evening and booked their rooms but left the lodge only to come back this morning in company of a woman,” said Micah Loperes an attendant at the hotel. Loperes said the four men never checked out and didn’t have their breakfast either.
The chopper took off few minutes after 6am with the five aboard and the attendants said they saw it go round twice round Nakuru Town before it disappeared.
Loperes said they could not establish who the lady was as they had not attended to her. Patrick Kamau another attendant said the team appeared to be in a hurry.
“I talked to one of them and before we could finish our talks he ran towards the chopper,” he said.
Another source who sought anonymity said the five including the pilot appeared drunk when they arrived at the lodge that fateful morning.
Waiters at the Platinum 7D Club, who were interviewed, said the four checked into the club in a large group at around 1am and they appeared to be club-hopping around town.
“I had a brief chat with the pilot who was seated at the counter. He was drinking beer and appeared drunk. I called his friends to take him away to rest. He could not walk on his own and his friends had to hold him. They left the club at 5:30am,” a waiter said.
Other sources revealed the helicopter, 5Y-NMJ, landed in Nakuru on Friday evening.
According to witnesses, the helicopter was seen flying above the lake in normal speed but plunged into the waters within minutes of take-off.
Esther Wamboi, who lives in Lake View estate that borders the lake recalled: “The helicopter was producing a loud sound that caught my attention. I spotted it over the lake before it suddenly went down.”
Despite the accident happening early morning, the speed boats from Naivasha arrived at the park at 1.30pm. It takes only 40 minutes to drive from Naivasha to Nakuru town. Even then, escue mission did not commence immediately. According to Nakuru County Commissioner Joshua Nkanatha, they had to wait for divers from Kenya Navy.
The team of Kenya Wildlife Service did not have modern rescue equipment for the rescue mission. They had to wait for Kenya Police helicopter and divers from Kenya Navy from Mombasa.
Senior park warden Samuel Tokore said the lake does not have boats and divers.
“Rescue mission could not kick off on time because of lack of experts and equipment,” said Tokore.
Helicopter from Kenya police headquarters arrived at the lake at around 10am and located exact location of the crush using GPS. According to a senior Park official who requested anonymity said there are no boats stationed at the lake.
“There is nothing much we can do because there are no equipment at the lake,” said the officer.
Various politicians from Nakuru led by Governor Lee Kinyanjui arrived at the scene immediately the news broke.
The Kenya Red Cross Society and St Johns Ambulance team also came to help in the rescue mission but could not do much because of lack of specialised rescue equipment.