, NAIROBI, Kenya Jan 11 – An Australian pilot is confined to a wheelchair nursing a bullet wound sustained when his friend, who is a licensed gun holder shot him during the wedding ceremony of a colleague -also a pilot- at a resort in Naivasha.
Shanne C. West 47, an accomplished pilot with lofty credentials having accumulated more than 11,000 flying hours is recovering at home in Nairobi’s Valley Arcade after being discharged from the Aga Khan Hospital recently.
At the time of the incident, he had taken time off his assignment for the UN aid mission in Sudan to attend the exclusive wedding.
His latest assignment in Africa was as a Captain of the B737-500 series for UTAir Ltd under United Nations operations.
The shooting occurred on November 11, 2011 at Sopa Lodge, the venue of the 100-guest list wedding between West’s friend Andrew Little and Maureen Wanjiku.
The incident was booked at the Naivasha Police station vide OB Number 87/11/11/2011.
Police records indicate that the shooting involved one Saavan A. Shah who is a licensed firearm holder. He was one of the guests invited to the wedding and Capt West admits that they had been friends with Shah for a few months.
Curiously, the suspect was arrested immediately after the shooting, had his gun confiscated but he was released later and he has since had the gun returned to him under unclear circumstances. He was not charged in a court of law.
“We had completed the wedding and I was going to get some cash from an ATM. When coming back, I just heard a bang and he was nearby, and immediately I felt some pain on my upper part of the body, only to realise that Saavan had discharged a bullet which he later said was accidental because he was just playing with his gun,” the pilot said in an interview with Capital News on Tuesday.
“He had removed it from the holster and was holding it… I don’t know what he was doing with a gun at a wedding in the first place. This was a gathering of families, friends and children.”
“There was no confrontation with anyone, and he was just holding it, I don’t know why, and it discharged a bullet that hit me,” he recalls.
An initial police investigation showed that that there was no confrontation at the wedding, warranting the use of a firearm.
“It caused kind of a scene and police were called in and took away Saavan who was then locked up at the police station and his gun taken away. I was also rushed to the Naivasha District Hospital for emergency treatment,” he recalls, often stretching himself on the wheelchair.
Captain Little, who was wedding on the fateful day told Capital News; “immediately after the shooting the guy (Saavan Shah) told me he had shot at him accidentally. It threw the whole party into disarray and we were running up and down because of the emergency.”
Due to the deplorable state at the local hospital, West was quickly evacuated to Nairobi by ambulance and taken to the Nairobi Hospital and later the Aga Khan Hospital’s ICU.
At the Aga Khan, West underwent two surgeries, including one to remove the bullet which was still lodged in him, having entered his left shoulder, seared his spine and lodged itself in his right shoulder.
The fragments from the fracturing of his 1st and 2nd left ribs as the bullet tore into him, damaged his lung filling it with copious amounts of blood, according to medical reports.
He now has a nurse assigned to him round the clock because he cannot move on his own, having suffered injuries to the spinal cord.
The pilot says during his admission at the Aga Khan Hospital, the man who shot him visited him and pledged to settle the medical bills as well as compensate him for losses incurred during his stay out of work.
“We agreed when this should have been settled but to date he has only paid Sh1 million and the rest is pending. That is why I had to be discharged because the bill was really going high… to about Sh3 million,” he said but could not disclose the figure agreed on as compensation.
“I better not go into those details at the moment,” he said when prodded to reveal more about the terms terming it “more of a gentleman’s agreement” between him and the Shah family. Capt West said Shah had been to see him in hospital with his father on more than two occasions and sealed the settlement.
“The Shah’s promised to spare no expense in having West treated and promised as well to cover all medical expenses,” said Captain Little.
“To necessitate this, through their lawyers they drew up an affidavit and a settlement agreement to cover for loss of income and future medical expenses should West never recover the full use of his limbs again but the papers were not signed by Saavan Shah or his lawyers,” Capt Little adds.
Capt West and his friends accuse the police in Naivasha of acting too slow in dispensing justice.
But contacted for comment, Rift Valley Provincial Police chief Francis Munyambu told Capital News he was aware of the matter which he said will be subjected to a public inquiry.
“The case will be subjected to a public inquiry and that is up to the courts to initiate. The police did their work,” Munyambu told Capital News on telephone from Nakuru. He said the suspect was released on bond.
He could not state how long it will take to have the public inquiry in place because it’s not within his jurisdiction.
Capt West said the man who shot him has since lost touch with him and cannot be accessed whenever he seeks to discuss issues about settling his medical expenses in hospital.
“I am now sitting here, waiting to recover fully before I return back to my flying career. How long this will take is anyone’s guess,” Capt West says with a grim smile on his face.
“I certainly miss flying; it is my career which I started in the early 1984. I have spent much of my time in life up there and from one country to another, now I can’t move any more. I am here as you can see,” he adds.