[Additional reporting by CORRESPONDENT]
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 4 – Captain David Kibati will forever be remembered as the man who paid the ultimate price to coronavirus.
For the retired military pilot, flying home stranded Kenyans from New York on the final flight before the government closed the airspace for international passengers was just like any other day at work.
What he did not know on that March 26, when he lifted off from JFK International airport, is that that was his last moment on the cockpit, for he had contracted coronavirus, the very disease hundreds of people he flew home were running away from.
“Captain Kibati managed to evacuate many Kenyans and non-Kenyans from the United States back to the county but only for him to succumb to the same disease,” said Mutahi Kagwe, Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary, “He paid the last price.”
He was buried at his Kitui rural home on Saturday, at a ceremony attended by his nuclear family and his personal doctor in compliance with the strict regulations issued by the government on maintaining social distancing and avoiding crowds.
The celebrated Captain at Pride Centre, the Kenya Airways Headquarters and across the country is now part of the over 50,000 sad statistics of people who have succumbed to the virus globally. In Kenya, he is among the four people who had lost their lives by Saturday.
There was a sombre mood at the Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi on Saturday morning when his colleagues lined up to the tarmac to witness as his body was loaded onto a hearse to start his final journey to his Kitui home.
Due to the social distancing directive by the government, only a handful of his fellow pilots and crew who worked with him turned up, but they did not attend the burial.
Some of the passengers and crew who were on his flight are among more than 2000 people on quarantine.
“Kenyans owe him a great deal,” Kagwe told a media conference Saturday.
According to his family, his situation worsened because he was suffering from diabetes.
Coronavirus is known to be brutally lethal on anyone with pre-existing conditions.
A six-year-old boy who succumbed to the virus at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) on Friday had been having a pre-existing health condition, just like the very first patient who succumbed at the Aga Khan hospital last week. Kenya’s fatalities from the disease stood at 4 on Saturday.
Kenya is implementing a dusk to dawn curfew declared a week ago, and has warned of tougher measures ahead so as to prevent the spread of the virus that has so far infected a million people globally and killed more than 50,000 others.