NAIROBI, Kenya Jul 2- The Commission of Inquiry into the recent helicopter crash that killed six Kenyans is to hold its first formal session on July 16, with the Kenya Police Airwing Unit Commandant Rodgers Mbithi appearing as the first witness.
Speaking after a familiarization tour of the Kenya Police Airwing Headquarters at the Wilson Airport, Commission Chairperson Justice Kalpana Rawal said that this was to allow the Air Accident Inspectorate to complete its work and also allow the commission’s assisting counsels to finalise preparing witness statements.
The Commission of Inquiry was established to look into the June 10 helicopter crash that killed Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, his assistant Orwa Ojodeh, two bodyguards and two pilots.
At the same time, the Saitoti’s family wants the Kenya Police Airwong Commandant to furnish the Commission with records of procurement of the ill-fated chopper, the recruitment procedure for the training in South Africa on handling the Eurocopter helicopter.
It was also revealed that Captain Nancy Gituanja and Luke Oyugi underwent pilot training in the Ukraine in April 2009. Gituanja also went through a specialized course on handling the Eurocopter AS350 in South Africa.
Last December, she went to South Africa together with the Kenya Police AirWing commandant.
Lawyer Fred Ngatia representing Saitoti’s family said he plans to call aviation experts from South Africa when the Commission begins its work.
“Let’s identify system failures if there are any. This must be a candid approach, not hide and seek,” Ngatia said.
The Commandant had walked the Commission through the operation at the Air Wing including showing them a flight monitoring software which depicted the final flight path of the police chopper.
At the sametime, Justice Rawal announced that the clearance of the wreckage from the Kibiku Forest will be done on Wednesday and not Tuesday as earlier planned adding that the container holding the wreckage will be stored at the Kenya Police Air-Wing facility at the Wilson Airport.
The Rawal led team had earlier in the morning been sworn in by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and held its intial sitting at the KICC where the Attorney General Githu Muigai announced James Warui, Charles Mutinda and Faith Irari as the Assisting Counsels to the Commission.
He said the commission mandate is now similar to that of a High Court unlike if it was left as public inquest and appealed to Kenyans to volunteer information relevant to establishing the cause of the crash
The President had upgraded the Kalpana Rawal probe team to a Commission of Inquiry to accommodate concerns raised by the families of the departed officers and members of the public.
Rawal cautioned the public against speculation saying that the Commission will not hesitate in taking action against persons who may try to derail their work.
Captain Peter Maranga assured the bereaved family that they will get to the bottom of the truth: “We know that past commission have not had a good reputation in Kenya, but I want to assure you that we will not do a shoddy job.”
“The intention here is not to apportion blame, but to prevent occurrence,” added Captain Maranga who was involved in the investigations following the crash of a Kenya Airways plane in Cameroon in 2007.
Rawal said they are currently not limiting themselves to working within a given time frame.
Saitoti’s widow Margaret and his other friends attended the session on Monday.