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Locals recall moments with KDF team at Cheptulel Boys High School before deadly chopper crash

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Chief of Defence Forces Gen Francis Ogolla at the National Defence College in Karen on May 25, 2023.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

At around 1pm on Thursday, three helicopters landed in quick succession at Cheptulel Boys Secondary School in West Pokot County.

Several people emerged from the helicopters and were met by Pokot Central Deputy County Commissioner Jeremiah Tumoh and Chesegon Assistant County Commissioner Naftali Korir, area chiefs and other administrators. 

"The KDF team came straight to the tent we were in. Among them was the Chief of Defence Forces, Francis Ogolla, who told the residents that all schools affected by insecurity in the area would be rehabilitated by the KDF," says Tito Lopuriang, a resident of Cheptulel who attended the meeting. 

The KDF officers spent about an hour at the school, according to locals who were present.

"They entered one classroom and inspected it," said Mr Lopuriang.

He says a Buffalo helicopter took off shortly before 3pm and a few minutes later locals saw smoke after the helicopter crashed a short distance from the school on the Marakwet side of the Sindar area, just about two kilometres from the Chesegon area. 

"KDF officers on the ground used a drone to determine what had happened at the scene," he says. 

Mr Lopuriang said the security team initially thought bandits had brought down the helicopter. 

Mr Lopuriang revealed that KDF officers cordoned off the scene and did not allow anyone to approach. 

He said the injured were taken to Kaben Health for treatment before being airlifted to an undisclosed location.

Last to land

Musa Kariwoi, another local who attended the meeting, said the helicopter carrying General Ogola was the last to land at the school.

"At the meeting, the area chief welcomed the headmaster, the sub-county education director, the ACC, the DCC and then the KDF officers took over. After the speeches, they went back to the classroom to start the renovation. He took the trowel and tried to build," he said. 

He says CDF Ogola said the renovation would start immediately. 

Local government administration leaders who were present at Cheptulel Boys secondary school during the KDF team visit included assistant County Commissioner, Chesegon division Mr Naftali Korir, Pokot Central sub-county Deputy County Commissioner Mr Jeremiah Tumoh, Chesegon Location chief James Kapeyon and Principal Cheptulel Boys Mr James Koitilo.

Chesegon Location Chief James Kapeyon said the KDF officers were in the area to assess schools affected by banditry after President William Ruto last week ordered the military to immediately rehabilitate schools affected by banditry in Chesegon area so that learning can resume next term. 

The Head of State spoke on Monday last week during the commissioning of the Cemtech clinker factory in Sebit area, West Pokot County.

West Pokot County Commissioner Khalif Abdullahi confirmed that the helicopter crashed on the West Pokot-Elgeyo Marakwet border.

He said President William Ruto would release the names of those on board.

The Head of State was by Thursday night holding a national security council meeting at the State House, Nairobi.