, NAIROBI, Kenya Mar 4 – 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.