Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Updates on plane crash - Wed 6/11/2008

Weather to blame for crash

Publication Date: 6/11/2008

Preliminary investigations into Tuesday’s tragic plane crash in which a minister and an assistant minister perished indicate that the ill-fated aircraft was flying in poor visibility at the time of the accident.

Government leaders in a pensive mood as they await the remains of ministers Kipkalya Kones and Lorna Laboso at Wilson Airport, Nairobi.

A statement by the Minister for Transport Mr Chirau Ali Mwakwere has said investigators on the ground had established that the aircraft lost height and hit trees and a roof of a house before crashing.

The light Cessna 210 aircraft registration 5Y-BVE operated by Skytraders Limited crashed near Narok town killing Roads Minister Kipkalya Kones, Home Affairs assistant minister Lorna Laboso, the minister’s bodyguard and the pilot.

Remains of the deceased were flown from the scene of the crash Wednesday morning and received by high ranking government officials, MPs, family and friends.

A sombre mood engulfed Wilson airport when the Kenya Air Force choppers carrying the remains and a team of MPs and top government administrators who had flown to the scene in early morning hours, touched down between 11.42 am and 11.45 am.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende led a large number of MPs who turned out to receive the remains of their colleagues.

Emotions ran high and tears flowed freely as they were carried off the chopper and a brief session of prayers and speeches held beside the landing strip.

Mrs Ida Odinga and Aldai MP Sally Kosgei were among those who could not control their tears and sobbed in an emotional embrace. Mr Kones’ two widows and Ms Laboso’s close family members wept uncontrollably as they waited for the bodies to arrive.

Mr Mwakwere’s statement stated that the Government would issue a full report as soon as investigations are completed.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto who led a team of MPs to the scene of accident hours earlier to prepare the bodies for transportation to Nairobi, later described the scene of the crash, the state of the aircraft and the condition of the bodies.

The minister clarified that the plane did not burst into flames as earlier claimed. He ruled out possible engine failure and explained that the Kenya Civil Aviation team on the ground had indicated in its preliminary report that the engines of the aircraft were still running, but were ripped off by the time of the crash.

The KCA team headed by the director of Air Accident Investigations in the Ministry Mr Peter Wakahia has already cordoned off the area and further investigations are ongoing.

Mr Ruto said the wreckage of the aircraft indicated that it was in high speed by the time it smashed into trees and the side of a hill.

“From the way it crashed, there was no chance for anyone to survive,” the minister said. He explained that the aircraft’s wings were ripped off by trees and its main trunk ripped into pieces.

Preliminary investigations had also indicated that the German pilot flying the aircraft was fairly new in the country and might not have mastered the terrain, according to the minister.

Mr Ruto, however, said there may have been a combination of issues that could have caused the accident and urged the KCA team to conduct comprehensive investigations.

Addressing mourners at Wilson airport Mr Odinga who had earlier held a meeting with President Kibaki, said the Government will foot all the burial costs of the deceased.

“The Government shall give them decent burial befitting heroes. It is the greatest gift to give them,” he said.
He appealed for calm and cautioned against speculation over the cause of the crash.

“Let us all be patient so that thorough and conclusive investigations can be done,” he said.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said the country had lost committed ministers. He described the late Kones as a hero in every sense who stood through thick and thin with his Bomet people.

The VP said he had met the late Laboso who was an assistant minister in his office before she embarked on her tragic journey and she had been in high spirits.

“She was as cheerful as ever, so exuberant and so dedicated,” he stated.

Mr Marende expressed regret that the country had already lost four legislators just within six months.

“It is a sad spectacle because the year has been exceptionally difficult for Parliament. It is very sad and painful and we shall miss their contribution and vibrancy,” he stated.

Remains of the deceased are being preserved at Lee Funeral Home.

Deaths overshadow Kenya elections

Kenya is holding by-elections in five constituencies, less then six months after the country was gripped by violence following disputed polls.

Two of the seats in question were held by MPs killed after December's polls.

But the voting will be overshadowed by the deaths of two government ministers in a plane crash on Tuesday.

Roads Minister Kipkalya Kones and Assistant Home Affairs Minister Lorna Laboso were on their way to assist with the by-elections.

A pilot and a security guard were also killed when the Cessna plane the ministers were flying in crashed near the western town of Narok, Kenyan police told the BBC.

Balance of power
The BBC's Kevin Mwachiro in Embakasi says there was a low turn-out in the morning, although by-elections typically do not attract high numbers of voters.

He says Electoral Commission of Kenya officials were hopeful that turn-out would improve later.

The numbers are very tight in terms of who controls parliament
Kwamchetsi Makokha, analyst

There are fears that the underlying tensions that sparked clashes after the polls have still not been resolved and could resurface, the BBC's Karen Allen in Nairobi says.

Kenya's grand coalition government - which has set up a number of commissions to investigate the violence - has been looking decidedly fragile, our correspondent says.

The results could also upset the delicate balance of power in parliament.

Should the Orange Democratic Movement lose its majority in parliament, party leader Raila Odinga's position as prime minister in the coalition government could be uncertain.

The ODM will hope to retain the seats of Embakasi in Nairobi, as well as Ainamoi and Emuhaya in the Rift Valley, scene of the worst violence earlier this year.

But President Mwai Kibaki's Party of National Unity is putting up a spirited fight.

"The numbers are very tight in terms of who controls parliament. With the death of the minister and the assistant minister now the ODM has 100 MPs and the PNU coalition has 102 MPs," says analyst Kwamchetsi Makokha.

There have also been reports of hate leaflets being circulated in the Kilgoris constituency, raising the spectre of ethnic violence which was blamed for some of the post-poll violence.

Supporters of President Kibaki and Mr Odinga have locked horns over several key areas, including whether those held after the elections should be given amnesty or be subject to the full force of the law.

More than 1,000 people were killed and some 300,000 displaced after the polls.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/06/11 11:57:20 GMT© BBC MMVIII

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