Twisted fate: Pilot who rescued boy from wilderness loses kin in Tsavo plane crash

Ayub Ahmed

Reunion: Ayub Ahmed, 4, with his father Abdi Salat in Gerasa Village, Tana River County. He was rescued after wandering in the Tsavo wilderness for almost a week. 

Photo credit: Stephen Oduor | Nation Media Group

The joy of a pilot who rescued a four-year-old child that survived six days of being stranded in the vast wilderness of Tsavo National Park was cut short Thursday after he lost two relatives in a plane crash.

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust pilot Roan Carr-Hartley has been thrown into mourning after losing his cousin Mark Jerkins, also a pilot, and nephew Peter Jerkins in the Thursday plane crash that occurred at Huri Plains in Tsavo East National Park.

The deceased were on board a fixed-wing plane and were doing aerial surveillance to drive away cattle from the park when their plane crashed. Upon impact, the plane caught fire, burning the two occupants beyond recognition. 

"The aircraft crashed around 0830 hours 120 kilometres from the station. The bodies of the deceased have been airlifted to Nairobi," said a report of the incident.

Tsavo East National Park

The aircraft crashed in Kone area along the Tiva in Tsavo East National Park on Thursday morning. 

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

The wreckage of the plane belonging to Sheldrick Wildlife Trust lies guarded by rangers at the Tsavo East National Park as investigations into the cause of the crash begin.

The three Britons, including the hero pilot who rescued four-year-old Ayub Ahmed, had planned to visit Gerasa village to help pool resources to support the education of the rescued minor and his siblings.

The boy, who hails from Asa, a community 52 kilometres east of the northern Tsavo East park boundary, survived on rain water and amarula seed-like pods. 

He had disappeared on Tuesday November 29, 2022 while out herding livestock with his brothers. He was found six days later, about 17 kilometres inside Tsavo National Park, an area with lots of wild animals.

Roan Carr-Hartley, a pilot with the SWT, joined the search on day four and after hours of searching in vain, the team decided to take a rest and try another day.. He was gifted a billy goat as appreciation for rescuing the boy, who has also since been nicknamed 'Pilot'.

Photo credit: sheldrickwildlifetrust.org

Mr Carr-Hartley mourned his two relatives kind-hearted people. 

"They had a heart for people, very kind-hearted and committed...it's very unfortunate they have died such a painful death," he said.

Locals in Gerasa village have also mourned the duo.

"I have lost a friend in Mark Jerkins. We had so many plans together for our people that unfortunately may not materialise," said Rezga Roba, a local chief.

Family of conservationists

The late Jerkins served as a conservationist in various roles both at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and in the private sector. He had previously worked as a warden in charge of Meru National Park before returning to KWS as an advisor to the Board of Trustees.

In February this year, former Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala appointed him honorary warden of the Tsavo Conservation Area for three years. 

He comes from a family of conservationists: his father, the late Peter Jenkins, was a wildlife warden from the 50s to the 70s when he retired.

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