NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 16 – The family of the late Minister for Internal Security George Saitoti has opposed plans to have the crashed helicopter’s engine flown to France for examination.
Family lawyer Fred Ngatia told the commission that the engine and gear box of the Eurocopter AS350 should be examined locally at a location agreed to by all parties involved in the probe, including the French manufacturer.
He said engineer Tim Carter who has been nominated by the family to be part of the probe gave this advice, saying he had sent items to France during previous crash probes yet he never got the results back.
Ngatia made the application at the first public sitting of the Commission of Inquiry into the chopper crash that is led by Justice Kalpana Rawal.
“Our very firm position is that France is not an option. Our engineer has 50 years experience and for any item that has been taken to France he has had a problem with getting the results. So let us think of other destinations but not France,” the lawyer insisted.
“The advantage with doing these things locally is that we start getting immediate results and we can start to immediately write the report,” added Ngatia.
The commission’s lead counsel Lucy Kambuni said that they did not have any difficulty having the manufacturer conduct the scientific evaluation on parts of the helicopter.
Kambuni said that the commission had lined up at least 147 witnesses to testify on various aspects of the probe starting next Monday.
“We do not have a problem as long as the scientific evaluation is done by the manufacturer. In regard to the engine stripping we have instructions that it is done by an agent appointed by the manufacturer or through an agent appointed by the manufacturer,” she said.
Ngatia said that Carter had already deduced ‘strange events’ from the results of the Baroscope inspection on the helicopter wreckage that was conducted last Friday.
Ngatia proposed that the Garmin GPS instruments on the location of the chopper be taken to the United States for examination while the Vehicle Engine Monitoring Display (VEMD) could be taken to the manufacturer in whichever place they are based.
He said that the manufacturer of the GPS instruments based in the US had the capability to decode information even from a damaged GPS system.
According to Ngatia, reports on the various items that will be taken out of the country should be transmitted directly to the commission so that it shares with counsel on record.
The commission will resume its sittings next Monday with witnesses from the Kenya Police procurement department set to take the stand.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) was also enjoined as a party to the inquiry after submissions from Counsel Ken Ogeto.
Other than investigating the cause of the June 10 accident in Ngong forest, terms of reference for the commission include investigating the procedures surrounding the procurement and purchase of the helicopter AS350 B3e.
It shall also seek to establish how the helicopter was serviced since the time it was purchased, plus usage and storage prior to the accident that occurred in Kibiku area of Ngong hills, just outside the capital Nairobi.
The late Saitoti and his assistant Orwa Ojode were headed to Ndhiwa for a church service and peace meeting in Borabu while accompanied by two bodyguards when the helicopter went down. They all perished in the crash alongside two pilots.