NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 4 – The Kwae Island Development Limited Helicopters has said the recovery operations of the five bodies which were lost through a plane crush on Sunday is ongoing.
In a statement sent to newsrooms, KIDL accountable manager Braco Brighetti said their rescue team was able to reach the island and the wreckage was located with no survivors.
“The able helicopter on landing alerted the KIDL operations team, search and rescue was activated in conjunction with all relevant authorities,” a part of the statement read.
The pilot, who was among five people killed in Turkana on Sunday night, has been described by those who know him as one of Kenya’s finest in the airspace.
Mario Magonga is a former military pilot and hails from Nyamataro in Kitutu South Constituency in Kisii County.
He is son to retired Brigadier Magonga and is a first cousin to the area Member of Parliament Richard Onyonka.
“It is tragic news to us,” a family member said, describing him as a “very humble and professional pilot.”
Magonga was flying four American tourists from Lobolo Tented Camp in Lake Turkana’s Central Island National Park, when his aircraft crashed moments after take-off, according to police.
Police believe the aircraft went down at about 8pm, but it took rescuers up to 4 am Monday to locate the wreckage and the bodies.
“Last (Sunday) evening at about 8pm, a helicopter crashed at Central Island National Park in Lake Turkana, killing all its five occupants on board,” Police Spokesman Charles Owino said in a statement but did not release names of the victims.
A senior police officer briefed on the accident, however, confirmed to Capital FM News that Magonga was among the victims. Magonga is one of Deputy President William Ruto’s pilots.
“Magonga has been working for him for a while now, and he is a man we hold with high respect because of his navigation skills while up there,” a government official told Capital FM News, “He indeed works for the DP.”
According to police, two helicopters had landed earlier at Labolo tented Camp on the National Park’s Island, but one managed to clear the area safely.
There was no immediate information on the cause of the crash, but the Police Spokesman said an investigation had been opened.
Known as the Jade Sea, Lake Turkana, is the most saline lake in East Africa, the largest desert lake in the world, and a popular tourist spot.
Its Central Island is made up of three active volcanoes, according to the KenyaWildlife Service.
The lake is an important stopover for migratory birds and its islands are breeding grounds for the Nile crocodile, hippopotamus and several snake species.
Last year, UNESCO placed the massive expanse of water on its list of endangered World Heritage Sites, in part because it is threatened by Ethiopia’s construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Omo River, which replenishes the lake seasonally.