Covid-19: KQ hero pilot Daudi Kibati laid to rest in Kitui

Wednesday May 13 2020
BURIAL

Catholic priest Julius Muthamba conducts burial rites for Kenya Airways pilot Daudi Kimuyu Kibati at his Mavindini village home in Kitui County on April 4, 2020. PHOTO | KITAVI MUTUA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By KITAVI MUTUA

The Kenya Airways pilot who contracted the Covid-19 virus while evacuating Kenyans from New York was on Saturday laid to rest in a ceremony attended only by close family members.

Captain Daudi Kimuyu Kibati, who paid the ultimate price for his gallant efforts to rescue Kenyans was buried at his Mavindini village home in Kavisuni area of Kitui Rural Sub-County amid tight security.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Police officers were deployed at his home to enforce the social distancing rule imposed by the government. Many of his relatives, friends, neighbours and colleagues, who would have wanted to witness Mr Kibati’s burial were locked out.

The ceremony was attended by 15 people including Captain Kibati’s widow Jane Mwende his sons, siblings, parents, a priest who conducted the funeral mass and a representative from Kenya Airways.

Earlier, there were fears that relatives overcome by grief could force their way into the compound.  

However, police manning the gate disperses a crowd of people who milled around the gate when the casket bearing his remains arrived at around noon on Saturday from the Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi.

Katulani Deputy County Commissioner Shufaa Mwijuma Omar said they had conducted public awareness in the area to discourage people from attending the burial for their own safety in the wake of coronavirus pandemic that has so far claimed four lives and infected 126 Kenyans.

INFECTIONS

“The security officers were deployed to support the pilot’s grieving family in maintaining law and order and ensure the mourners are not exposed to any possible infections,” said Ms Omar.

The burial ceremony was conducted by Father Julius Muthamba, the Catholic Diocesan secretary who pastors at the Boma Catholic Parish in Kitui town.

Captain Kibati was in charge of the last KQ Dreamliner 787 flight from New York to Nairobi which evacuated Kenyans stranded in the United States, before the government ban on international flights took effect on Wednesday last week.

He succumbed to the virus on April 1. He is believed to have contracted the virus while flying commercial jetliners. His widow Jane said they could only communicate with her husband on phone while he was in quarantine.

“It has been very difficult for us as a family. His death was a big blow to us but the requirement to bury him within 48 hours was the most trying,” said Mrs Kibati who unsuccessfully ran for Kitui Woman Representative seat in 2013 and 2017.

RESCUE KENYANS

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe mourned the KQ pilot, a retired Major of the Kenya Air Force for putting his life on the line to rescue his countrymen trapped overseas by coronavirus.

The CS said it was regrettable that Captain Kibati ended up paying the ultimate price for his risky task of saving Kenyans from coronavirus pandemic only to contract and die of the same disease.

“On behalf of the government, the ministry of health and myself personally, I’d like to send condolences to the family and friends of the late Captain Daudi Kimuyu Kibati of Kenya Airways. As you know, Captain Kibati took a major risk to go and evacuate Kenyans from America, one of the high risk countries” said Mr Kagwe.

He said the pilot and his colleagues on that flight took a major risk and managed to evacuate many Kenyans and non-Kenyans from United States back into our country, but only for him to succumb to the same disease.

“In other words, he made the ultimate sacrifice. May his soul rest in peace. Kenyans owe him a great deal of gratitude” CS Kagwe said in his Saturday’s Covid-19 press briefing.

Captain Kibati died a week after performing his last international assignment. He had flown a Kenya Airways Dreamliner 787 from New York and landed in Nairobi on March 24.

The flight had to leave New York City before the lockdown announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo began and arrive in Kenya before the ban on all international flights took effect on March 26.

When he landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after his final flight, the 62-year-old pilot was put under quarantine at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Nairobi, a mandatory requirement for everyone jetting into Kenya.

DEVELOPED FEVER

He tested negative upon arrival in Nairobi and two more times but stayed isolated from his family and friends until Sunday 29 when he developed sore throat and fever.

According to his brother Arnold Kibati, he was taken to Nairobi Hospital and promptly admitted after testing positive for the virus.

“Our brother tested positive for coronavirus on the eighth day after undergoing rigorous medical screening in all the capitals he flew to, and three more tests in Nairobi which were negative” the young brother said.

US-based law scholar Prof Makau Mutua said the management of Kenya Airways was reckless and should be held liable for exposing the pilot to coronavirus by failing to shut down flights from Rome and New York.

“The government and KQ put profits over people and ignored the safety of their pilots, crew and passengers. They should bear legal responsibility for the untimely death of this great public servant,” Prof Mutua who attended Kitui High School with Mr Kibati.