What you need to know:
- Crucial components removed in S. Africa before aircraft was bought by police, says Airwing boss
- Components were removed from the aircraft in South Africa before it was bought by the Kenya Police Airwing
Eleven parts were missing from the helicopter that crashed killing Internal Security minister George Saitoti and his deputy Orwa Ojodeh, a commission of inquiry heard on Thursday.
The components were removed from the aircraft in South Africa before it was bought by the Kenya Police Airwing, the Justice Kalpana Rawal-led team was told.
The commission is investigating the cause of the crash which also claimed the lives of two pilots and the ministers’ two bodyguards.
Police Airwing deputy commandant Johnson Mwangi Gathatu said the supplier of the helicopter could have short-changed the government, Mr Gathatu said on what he knew about the airworthiness of the aircraft which crashed on June 10 in Kibiku area of Ngong.
The commission’s assisting counsel, Mr James Warui, questioned him for three hours.
Mr Gathatu, who is also the Airwing’s chief engineer, said in retrospect he could “not have allowed the aircraft into the police hangar” had he not over-trusted Eurocopter.
He said the helicopter was flown to Nairobi by Mr Rodgers Mbithi, the commandant, and kept at the police hangar. However, on May 31 when the commandant and trainee pilot Charles Nderitu tried to start the aircraft they noticed a red light on the warning panel.
“I called Aristide, one of the Eurocopter engineers who tried to diagnose the problem but the light would not disappear. He could not come up with an answer,” Mr Gathatu said.
The witness said Aristide ordered the aircraft to be pushed back to the hangar.
“They told us the Full Authority Digital Control unit needed to be replaced and they removed it and later sent it to their facility in South Africa. It took a week before the other one was fitted on June 8. I was present,” he said.
Mr Gathatu said the commandant and pilot Nancy Gituanja, who also died in the crash, then did a ground run of the aircraft and “another light came on indicating a failure in the engine data recording (EDR) component.”
“Aristide said the EDR should not come on and contacted his principals.”
The witness said the principals wrote back to the airwing commandant via e-mail saying EDR failure was not a problem and that the aircraft could be operated for another 200 hours before the problem was checked.
A copy of the e-mail was produced and marked as an exhibit. “They told us to continue flying the aircraft and on the strength of that e-mail it was flown by Nancy (Gituanja) to Voi,” the witness said.
When the aircraft was brought back to Wilson airport, Nairobi the EDR signal was ‘‘still on but we were not worried as the manufacturer had told us this was OK.”
He said he was aware that the helicopter was refuelled on June 9 with 530 litres of jet fuel but he did not know for what purpose.
The hearings continue at KICC on Friday.