‘We’ve lost a breadwinner, a generous person’, says family of late Col Duncan Keitany

Vincent Keitany

Vincent Keitany (centre), a brother of Colonel Duncan Keitany, with mourners at their home in Cheraik village in Eldama Ravine sub-County on April 19, 2024.

Photo credit: Florah Koech | Nation Media Group

On April 11, just a week before he was involved in a military chopper crash at the border of Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties, Colonel Duncan Keitany made an impromptu visit to his rural home in Cheraik village in Eldama Ravine sub-County in the evening.

He had a long chat with his younger brother before they retired to bed.

The following morning, his brother Vincent Keitany said they went to oversee the tilling of his land before he left for his workstation in Nairobi… little did he know that would be the last time they would see him alive.

According to the brother, the Colonel, a firstborn in a family of six, was in high spirits that particular day and as they tilled the land, he encouraged them to work hard owing to the tough economic times.

“We spent the better part of that evening talking on several issues and the following morning he oversaw the tilling of his land before going back to his work station. I did not know that would be the last time to see him alive,” said Keitany as he fought back tears.

The military officer, he said, being the firstborn, played a role in supporting them and was not only a breadwinner to his siblings but to the entire extended family.

“On Thursday, I was engaged in my daily chores and in the evening, I saw some news on the television indicating that a military chopper had crashed in Elgeyo Marakwet. I had even called him earlier in the day before the crash but his phone was engaged. I least expected that my brother was among them. Some minutes later, President William Ruto officially announced the names and number of the fatalities and I heard the name of my brother. I was in denial, and I kept assuring myself that it was a different person,” said Mr Keitany.

“It dawned on me later that our breadwinner died in the crash after some neighbours thronged into our home to condole with us. This is a very big blow not only to us but the extended family because the Colonel played a major role in supporting every one of us. He was even paying school fees for some of the children in this family. I am just lost for words,” added the brother.

Deborah Keitany, his younger sister, who was also yet to come to terms with the loss, said that she got the news of his passing on social media.

“I was also away from home on Thursday and I saw some news of the crash on social media in the evening but I did not focus much on who was in the ill-fated military chopper. At around 7pm, I saw some names, among them my brother, circulating on Facebook that they were among the officers who had lost their lives alongside Chief of the Defence Forces General Francis Ogola. The news of his death ripped me apart and I do not know if life will be the same for me,” said Ms Keitany.

She said that the Colonel was catering for her school fees in college, and she was planning to pursue a Diploma after completing a certificate course recently.

“The Colonel was paying for my school fees and he had recently advised me to proceed for Diploma after graduating in a Certificate course.

"My life has just come to a screeching halt because I do not know where I will start. We have not only lost our firstborn but a dependent and the only person in the entire extended family who is a civil servant,” she said amid sobs.

Wilson Kogei, a neighbour, also described the deceased as a generous person who immensely played a role in community projects and assisting the less fortunate in the neighbourhood.

“Since he joined the military in 1991, the Colonel has been a very supportive and generous person in this community. He contributed a lot in every event or fundraisers in this area and he even extended his generosity in donating an acre of his land to pave the way for the construction of a church adjacent to his home,” said Mr Kogei.

Isaac Cheboi, a neighbour, called on the government to expedite investigations to ascertain the cause of the crash that claimed the lives of 10 senior military officers, including the Chief of the Defence Forces.

“We are so worried and we have a thousand unanswered questions. It is a big blow that we have lost such a senior officer in the military but also an asset in this area. We received the news of his passing with very heavy hearts and we want the government to tell us exactly what happened to warrant the deaths of more than 10 officers,” said Mr Cheboi.

“We depended on Col Keitany so much that we will feel the magnitude of his loss. When he came home a week ago, we met with him and he had a lot of projects in mind to implement to assist the villagers, including the construction of a water pan in the locality. It will just be fair enough if the state tells us what led to the death of the officers,” added the elder.

Colonel Keitany, 55, a father of six, has been in the military service for more than 33 years after joining the Kenya Air Force in 1991.