As the country marks the New Year, the family of two Lake Nakuru helicopter crash victims have nothing to smile about as the fate of their sons’ bodies remains uncertain more than two months later.
The bodies of Mr Sam Gitau and Mr John Mapozi, who were among the five occupants of the ill-fated helicopter, are yet to be recovered since the crash on October 21, 2017.
Bodies of Captain Apollo Malowa, Mr Anthony Kipyegon and Ms Veronica Muthoni were recovered and buried.
Mr Malowa’s and Mr Kipyegon’s bodies were found floating on the shores of the lake after two days.
Ms Muthoni’s body was recovered four weeks later in the helicopter wreck that was recovered in the western side of the lake.
However, it was disappointing to the families when the remaining bodies, which were believed to have been trapped inside, could not be found when the helicopter wreckage was airlifted from the water.
The incident, which was the first of its kind in the region, exposed the government’s lack of preparedness in dealing with such disasters.
People who rushed to the scene to help in the rescue found themselves of no use due to lack of equipment such as boats.
Area leaders, including Governor Lee Kinyanjui and Senator Susan Kihika, would only stare at the vast waters of the lake.
In a bid to save the situation, a team consisting of personnel from both the national and county governments, Kenya Navy divers, National Police Service, KWS and divers from the Kenya Red Cross Society was later formed to undertake the rescue operation.
The Sonko Rescue Team, Lake Naivasha divers, the local community and geologists from the ministry of Mining also joined the team under the supervision of the National Disaster Operations desk officer Jonathan Kertich.
It took the help of fishermen from Lake Naivasha, who offered their boats, for any retrieval to be made.
The recovery team was also accused of taking too long to find bodies.
The team in its defence, however, claimed to be encountering numerous challenges in the course of their operation key among them financial constraints, poor visibility inside the water due to pollution and harsh weather conditions.
The recovery of the helicopter was later viewed as the culmination of the operation after which the search team was scaled down while other divers withdrew almost immediately.
Mr Kertich, on December 10, confirmed that the team had closed its camp as the key players involved in the operations had abandoned the mission after the recovery of three bodies and the wreckage of the helicopter.
“We closed the camp after the search teams including the Kenya Navy and the Sonko Rescue Team have left the mission,” said Mr Kertich.
However, he noted that KWS rangers would be patrolling the shores of the lake to see if the bodies could have been swept offshore.
A meeting convened by Governor Kinyanjui in December to chart a way forward on the recovery of the bodies failed to take place amid anxiety among the family members and friends.
In a statement, the county government said the meeting set to take place on December 19 could not take place as they had not received a technical report on the matter from the National Disaster Operations Centre (NDOC).
Mr Gitau and Mr Mapozi were part of Senator Kihika’s communication team and were headed for a campaign rally when the helicopter they were in crashed shortly after leaving a hotel within Nakuru Town.