NewsKenya's History of Plane Crashes Involving Top Officials

Kenya's History of Plane Crashes Involving Top Officials


- Advertisment -spot_img

The crash of a military helicopter that killed Chief of Defence Forces Francis Ogolla and 11 other service members on Thursday, April 18, has brought a painful history back into focus, highlighting a series of tragic plane crashes involving Kenya’s senior military and government officials.

The incident occurred near the Kaben-Cheptulel border, in a remote area between Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties. The helicopter, carrying Ogolla and his team, went down under unclear circumstances shortly after taking off from Cheptulel Boys Secondary School.

This crash is the latest in a disturbing pattern of incidents that have raised serious concerns over the safety of Kenya’s military hardware.

In recent years, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) have seen multiple aviation tragedies.

November 9, 2023: A plane crash involving an AS 550 C3 Fennec delivered in 2018, designated for attack purposes, crashed in Ol Tepesi, Kajiado.

November 20, 2023: A plane tagged as Mi 171e helicopter crashed in Buna, Garissa, during a patrol operation, claiming lives and pointing to the ongoing issues within the military’s aviation sector.

July 20, 2023: A AS 550 C3 Fennec plane delivered in 2018, crashed in Chemolingot, West Pokot, while accompanying Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale.

The Kenyan Defence Forces reported another loss when a surveillance helicopter went down in Lamu County’s Boni Forest during a routine patrol. Details about the incident, including the number of soldiers aboard, were not fully disclosed.


The wreckage of a KDF helicopter ion fire moments after it crashes in Ngong Forest, June 2021.

These frequent and fatal incidents have sparked intense scrutiny and criticism, particularly after the decision in December 2020 to transfer the management of civilian-owned aircraft to the military, forming the National Air Support Department (NASD) at Wilson Airport.

Transparency concerning these incidents remains an issue. The Kenya Air Force has been criticised for its lack of openness in releasing detailed accident investigation reports. This has sparked debates over accountability and the need for more stringent safety protocols.

Historically, Kenya has witnessed several high-profile aviation disasters. 

January 2003: A plane crash in Busia resulted in the deaths of a cabinet minister and two pilots. Labour Minister Ahmed Khalif perished as several other dignitaries including ministers Raphael Tuju (Tourism), Linah Kilimo (Office of the President), and Martha Karua (Water) survived.

April 2006: A KDF plane went down claiming 14 lives, among them five Members of Parliament, when their plane crashed in Marsabit amid poor weather conditions. This group included prominent figures such as Bonaya Godana and Mirugi Kariuki, marking one of the darkest days in parliamentary history.

The country’s aviation woes are not confined to military operations. 

June 10, 2008: A 5Y-BVE, crashed just 20 minutes after take-off from Wilson Airport.

The former Roads minister Kipkalya Kones alongside Sotik MP Lorna Laboso died after their plane crashed in Kojong’a area in Narok.

The pilot and owner of the aircraft, Christoph Maria Schnerr, and the minister’s bodyguard, Kenneth Bett also perished.

June 10, 2012: A Eurocopter AS350 crashed on a hill, killing all six people on board. 

Among the fatalities were Kenya’s Interior Security Minister George Saitoti and his Assistant Minister Joshua Orwa Ojode.

The accident happened shortly after 9am, just 10 minutes after taking off from Wilson Airport.

Also dead on impact were two pilots and two bodyguards who were onboard the chopper with Saitoti and Ojode for a Harambee in Ndhiwa, Homa Bay County.

The subsequent investigation sparked controversy and conspiracy theories, particularly regarding the unexplained presence of carbon monoxide in the pilots’ systems.

October 2017: A helicopter crash into Lake Nakuru resulted in the deaths of all five passengers, including aides to Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika and a local student.

Despite extensive search efforts, only three bodies were retrieved from the lake, leaving two families without closure as the bodies of Sam Gitau and John Mapozi were never recovered.

May 1978: Bruce Mackenzie, then an agriculture minister and a significant figure in Kenyan politics, died under mysterious circumstances in a plane crash, also in the Ngong’ Hills. Mackenzie was reputed to be a spy for foreign governments, and his death was widely speculated to be an assassination.

April 1992: The deadliest aviation accident on Kenyan soil happened when a military helicopter crashed in Kaloleni, killing 46 people, including 20 servicemen, with an additional six fatalities on the ground.

Despite these notable incidents, Kenya’s overall aviation record remains relatively stable, particularly concerning its commercial air travel. Kenya Airways, the country’s flagship carrier, has experienced only two major crashes in its operational history — in 2000 and 2007 — both involving international flights with significant loss of life.

The record of the Kenya Police’s aviation operations has also been marred by frequent incidents.

The most notable include the 2016 crash of a Kenya Police Augusta-AW 139 helicopter in Nairobi, an August 2018 crash of a newly launched MI-17 helicopter in Boni Forest, and several other minor accidents that raised concerns about operational safety and financial oversight within the force.

In 2020, the purchase and financial management of the police helicopter fleet came under scrutiny from the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee, investigating an alleged overpricing scandal involving hundreds of millions of shillings.

The Aviation Safety Network notes that since 2012, the Kenya Air Force has lost 12 aircraft, a stark figure that underscores ongoing safety challenges. 

KDF Chief of Defence Forces, General Francis Ogolla during his swearing-in at State House in Nairobi on April 28, 2023

KDF Chief of Defence Forces, General Francis Ogolla during his swearing-in at State House in Nairobi on April 28, 2023



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest news

Vatican Cracks Down on Fake Miracles with New Supernatural Guidelines

Starting this Sunday, May 19, the Catholic Church will have new rules to tackle the rising tide of claims...

Ruto Allows Private Cultivation in Kenya Forest Lands

President William Ruto on Tuesday, May 14, gave the green light to factories housed under the Kenya Tea Development...

President Ruto Dragged into CS Linturi's Failed Impeachment

In the wake of the failed bid to impeach Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi, a fresh storm has erupted...

3 Former Governors to be Dragged to Court This Week

On Sunday, May 12, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) announced that former Governors, Moses Lenolkulal Kesaine (Samburu), Ferdinand  Waititu (Kiambu)...
- Advertisement -spot_imgspot_img

Should Ruto Stick or Twist With Linturi – Experts Weigh In

As the country awaits the outcome of Agriculture and Livestock Production Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi’s impeachment motion, experts are...

AU Blasts Africa's Fertiliser Importation Weeks After Kenya's Fake Fertiliser Scandal

Kenya, one of the largest fertiliser importers, is set to ponder a significant restructuring of its fertiliser importation practices...

Must read

Vatican Cracks Down on Fake Miracles with New Supernatural Guidelines

Starting this Sunday, May 19, the Catholic Church will...

Ruto Allows Private Cultivation in Kenya Forest Lands

President William Ruto on Tuesday, May 14, gave the...
- Advertisement -spot_imgspot_img

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you