, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 7 – The Justice Kalpana Rawal-led Commission of Inquiry on Friday ordered Eurocopter to apologise for irregularly releasing an investigation report of the plane crash that killed Internal Security Minister George Saitoti in June.
Two local newspapers which published the report concluding that the air crash was a result of pilot error have also been ordered to apologise.
The ruling was made by Major General (Rtd) Harold Tangai, a member of the Commission following complaints from lawyers representing the families of the crash victims, police and the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority who also want the report excluded from the proceedings.
The report allegedly prepared by Eurocopter and Turbomeca investigators five days after the crash was emailed to the commissioners and counsel by Eurocopter lawyer Antony Gross.
The Star and the Standard newspapers published the report on Thursday kicking off the storm at the proceedings. Lead counsel Lucy Kambuni, lawyers Gerishom Otachi for civil aviation authority, Gikunda Miriti for the police and Sankala Mayiani and Ashford Muriuki led the calls for investigations into the leakage of the report which they said amounted to a breach of confidentiality among the commissioners and lawyers who had received and shared it in camera.
Saitoti’s family lawyer Fred Ngatia requested that the document by Eurocopter be permanently excluded from the proceedings.
The Commissioners were united in their condemnation of the leaked report.
“Eurocopter neither had any authority or competence to disseminate the report to its legal representative who then redirected the report to several persons in the commission. To say the least, this action by Eurocopter was a flagrant violation of the above specified Standard 5.26” Maj. Gen Rtd Tangai said.
“Moreover, publication of the evidence and the conclusions deduced from evidence in the report may have tended to pollute and negatively influence the public perception of the inquiry,” he added.
The commission ordered that “Eurocopter tenders unconditional apology to the Commission for improper and unauthorised dissemination of the Preliminary Report and publish the same within seven days from the date of this Ruling in all leading newspapers of Kenya.”
“Failure to comply as directed by any party, the Commission shall make further orders deemed just and appropriate.”
Tangai added; “the Commission may in its own discretion, initiate the inquiry to find the source of spillage of the report to the media.”
The June 10 air crash in Kibiku forest killed Saitoti, his assistant minister Orwa Ojode and four police officers—including the pilots.
“Eurocopter violated the mandatory provisions of Standard 5.26 of the Annex 13 of Chicago Convention by disclosing the contents of the Preliminary Report in the manner it did…Though we take the approve violations very seriously, we also take into consideration that this inquiry is of public interest and needs to be expeditiously finalised with due fairness, openness and transparency,” the said in its Ruling.
The hearings will resume on Monday when the Commission will hold its sittings at Wilson Airport where the helicopter’s engine will be dismantled.
Commission member Captain Peter Maranga stated; “We’ll have the engine being stripped on September 10. This is supposed to start at 10am at Lady Lorry (Hangar), the different interested parties representatives need to be there to participate in that process.”