NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 11 – It was in 1999 when Inspector Samuel Toipoka, then a constable, met Inspector Joshua Tonkei, one of the bodyguards who perished in Sunday’s helicopter crash that killed six government officials.
At the time, they were both assigned as bodyguards for the then Vice President George Saitoti who also died in the crash.
“Tonkei was a very good boss. He never looked down upon anybody even his juniors. He was like my brother,” Toipoka told Capital News of the man who was a Corporal with the Kenya Police at the time.
“He was my closest friend. I feel sad when I remember him,” he says.
Toipoka tells us that he was at the Wilson airport with the deceased before the latter boarded the ill-fated helicopter for Homabay.
“He was very happy when we were at the airport,” he says of Tonkei whom he describes as a great leader.
Toipoka was scheduled to be in the security detail for the Internal Security Minister George Saitoti during the travel. But his weight seems to have saved him.
“I got into the plane but the commandant said I could not go because of my weight. I am big bodied. I was ordered to alight from the plane,” he says.
He remembers the late Tonkei getting into an argument with the commandant who still maintained that Toipoka could not go. This is when he was told to choose someone else to go on his behalf and he chose Sergeant Thomas Murimi.
“I used to call him Thomas my brother because we had so much in common,” he says.
“We were born in the same year 1969 and we were both employed in 1994,” he explains.
He describes the late Murimi as a very polite, prayerful and God fearing person.
“I am sad but all I can say is that it was God’s will. It seems I have not finished my work here,” Toipoka says.
Incidentally, Toipoka remembers, in 2009, when he was also scheduled to be in the police helicopter in Kapsabet that crash-landed injuring internal Security Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode and a host of other senior government officials.
Ojode perished in Sunday’s crash.
But because of protocol, Toipoka remained in a Kenya Army plane that was part of the government entourage.
Sunday’s helicopter crash occurred at around 8.30 a.m near Kibiku forest within Ngong’ soon after the Kenya Police helicopter took off from the City’s Wilson Airport.
Investigations are underway into the cause of the crash that killed six people.