Why flight that killed 10 was doomed from start
The ill-fated Cessna C208 FlySAX airplane that crashed in Aberdare Forest was initially scheduled to land at the Wilson Airport, but the controller at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) asked the pilots to head there instead.
This, according to those in the know, was because of bad weather that was being experienced in the city, specifically at Wilson Airport, which apparently does not have good gadgets to help in navigation.
Captain Barbra Wangeci Kamau and First Officer Jean Mureithi were to take the Ngong route headed for Wilson Airport.
They were flying at 11,000 feet and had to make a turn to get their way to JKIA through Ruiru and later Utawala and land on runway 24, an insider said.
Other pilots aware of the incident say the two colleagues complained and said they were not conversant with the route, but the controller insisted on the same, saying he would help them navigate.
It was after they made a turn towards Aberdare Forest that air controllers lost contact with the plane.
Yesterday, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority Chief Executive Gilbert Kibe dismissed reports that the plane had some mechanical problems.
Mr Kibe said he had heard about the claims, but termed them as bad rumours.
“(The) rumours are very unfortunate… anyone with credible information should forward it to my office with evidence,” he said, adding that the plane had been cleared for airworthiness, including for the ill-fated flight.
“My main problem is why would anyone keep their mouths shut when they know someone’s life is in danger, they should do it (report) in writing,” he said.
Kibe was reacting to reports that several would-be passengers of the ill-fated aircraft opted out of the flight after reportedly learning that the plane might have developed mechanical problems.
The information adds a new twist to the fatal Tuesday evening air crash that cost the 10 lives, including those of two female pilots.
Air accident investigators could want to look at the new angle into their probe, whose findings could have huge implications for the operator Safari Air Express – trading as SAX.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said families of victims would have every assistance from his administration.
“They can be sure that there will be a full review of our procedures, so that we can all understand how this tragedy happened,” Uhuru said.
For the 43 hours that they laid there in the dense forest in freezing cold, with temperatures below eight degrees, there is no telling whether any one of the 10 in the ill-fated plane had survived the initial crash, only to die later in the harsh conditions.
From Tuesday 5pm, when air controllers lost contact with the Cessna C208 FlySAX airplane, it was not until yesterday at 12:37pm that recovery teams reached the wreckage of the aircraft deep inside the treacherous Aberdare Forest.
The two crew and eight passengers of the aircraft that was on its way to Nairobi from Kitale had a horrific ending to what was supposed to be a one-hour flight, with some bodies decapitated by twisted metals, as the plane plunged into a hill. The wreckage, was located in one of the peaks of Elephant Hills, in Aberdare Forest. The plane’s nose appeared to have hit the rocky peak before the craft came tumbling down 500 feet.
As the rescue personnel carried away the victims’ remains in white body bags tainted with mud, it was a sorrowful reminder of how the 10 victims on board died; cold and alone, away from those they loved.
Captain Barbra Wangeci Kamau and First Officer Jean Mureithi were in the cockpit.
The passengers confirmed dead include Ahmed Ali Abdi, Karaba Sailah Waweru Muiga, Khetia Kishani, Matakasakarai Thamani, Matakatekei Paula, George Ngugi Kinyua, Pinuertorn Ronald, and Robinson Wafula.
The plane was flying 11,000 feet above sea level before it encountered bad weather and one of its wings hit the rocky hill.
The area is known for receiving just minutes of sunlight in a day before the clouds become dark and it starts to rain.
The hill is 3,600 feet above sea level. The nose of the plane was just inches away from open air, which suggests that the pilot may have tried to have the plane pick altitude to go back in the air when the accident happened.
Two of the bodies, presumably of the pilot and co-pilot, were stuck uphill. Body bag P1 contained the plane’s pilot body, while her co-pilot was in body bag P2.
The other eight passengers had been crushed by the plane on its left side. The rescuers had to hook a rope on it as they could not roll it over to access the bodies.
Below, body parts lay there sprawled. Some of them had their insides out. One had his legs separated from his body. Another was without a head, which was carried separately.
At South Kinangop Forest station, where other rescue teams and some family had gathered, a distraught relative could be heard on phone trying to find out what their kin had worn last, just in an effort to identify him.
“Yes, I have seen his head. It was carried separately. I have seen his body too. I was told he had a black T-shirt,” he said, walking away, when he could not hold his tears.
From the state of the bodies, it is suspected that DNA tests may be necessary to match bodies to those of their relatives. The injuries were so severe that some could not be identified as female or male.
Some of them had visible deep cuts.
From up in the sky, the dark grey views of the bright-red Cessna C208 FlySAX airplane sprawled eerily on the ground, the distasteful contrast of the red airplane wreckage against the thick dark forest captured what perhaps had turned into a death cage for the 10.
Amidst the lush green forest, the rocky area the plane plunged into had turned dark from the heavy impact of the crash. The scorched rocky and muddy ground and charred vegetation was an unnerving indicator of the agitation, pain and helplessness the two pilots and eight passengers withstood, as the plane crashed, bringing trees down in the process. With the front of the plane covered by tree twigs and branches, it was evident that the pilots suffered an intensely painful crash.
The plane parts were scattered within a large radius on the steep scene of the accident. The body of the plane came completely undone, leaving broken seats, tattered fabric and complete obliteration of everything else that was inside.
Two times the rescue mission was aborted due to bad weather. And when time came to collect the bodies, despite the weather having been clear, suddenly it was foggy. The bodies were transported downhill on foot.
It took a team of about 150 rescuers from the Kenya Air Force, Kenya Red Cross Society, Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service to locate the wreckage.