Families of Lake Nakuru helicopter crash victims soldier on

Sunday October 21 2018

helicopter crash

Rehab Nyawira lost her fiancé during the helicopter crash in Lake Nakuru last year. PHOTO | AYUB MUIYURO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Something haunts Rehab Nyawira every time she looks into her daughter's eyes.

The young girl’s probing eyes remind her of Sam Gitau, her fiancé who died in the helicopter crash in Lake Nakuru last year — and whose body was never found.

“When I look into the eyes of this baby girl, I see my fiancé Sam. I miss him and I wish he were alive today,” a pensive Ms Nyawira told the Sunday Nation.

The crash happened shortly after 6am on the morning of October 21, 2017, after the chopper left Jarika hotel in Nakuru Town. There were no survivors.

The bodies of Mr Gitau and Mr John Njuguna 'Mapozi' were left to the elements after days of searching yielded no fruits.

The two had been in the ill-fated helicopter alongside Anthony Kipyegon and Veronica Muthoni. The pilot was Captain Apollo Malowa.


Ms Nyawira is optimistic that the remains of Mr Gitau will one day be found.

She is yet to come to terms with the circumstances under which her fiancé, a blogger affiliated with the ruling Jubilee Party, left her.

“I still believe that one day the remains will be found and that I will have an opportunity to give Sam a befitting burial,” she said. “This baby will forever remind me of his love."

The girl was born two weeks after the crash that took place just five days before the repeat presidential election.

More shocking to the victims' relatives is that little has been made public about the incident, a year later.

According to Captain Gilbert Kibe, the Director-General of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, the time it takes for such a report to be released depends on many factors.

“The period taken depends on the circumstances investigators face. However, the mandate lies with the chief investigator of aircraft accidents, who is under the Ministry of Transport,” Captain Kibe said.


Transport ministry officials did not immediately respond to queries by the Nation.

Ms Nyawira pleaded with relevant government bodies to make the report on the crash public.

“We still don’t know what happened since we have not received any information a year after we lost our loved ones,” she said. Other affected people are coping in different ways.

David Gachuki is unsettled by the fact that his daughter Veronica Muthoni died on her birthday month.

“She always reminded me not to forget her birthday. I miss her,” Mr Gachuki said at his home in Kabatini.

He added that Ms Muthoni, his firstborn, was the torchbearer, so the family is yet to come to terms with her death.

“Her demise left the family with a huge gap. We really miss her. Since it was an accident we pray to God to give us strength to accept that she is no more,” Mr Gachuki said.


Ms Muthoni’s body was found in the wreckage of the helicopter that was retrieved from the water a week after the tragedy.

Her portraits are still in the family’s living room, creating the impression that though she is gone, she is still with her family members.

“Life without Muthoni has been difficult and her absence can be felt but we have been gathering strength every day,” said her father.

Mr Gachuki observed that his daughter had started to develop an interest in politics although she had just completed a course in catering.

“She was supposed to come home on Friday but called a day before to say she had a function to attend,” he recalled.

Little did they know that that was the last time they would hear from her.

In Siaya County, Ms Dorothy Malowa, the mother of the captain, will hold a special mass for him.

“I’m a Catholic … the best I can do for my late son is to hold prayers with my fellow Christians in his remembrance,” Ms Malowa told the Sunday Nation.


She noted that the special mass will also be in memory of her late husband and the captain's grandfather.

“I live in Bondo, which is quite far from Nakuru; so I will be content with the special prayers at home,” she said.

Mr Apollo, 34, was an experienced pilot who had flown many top dignitaries across the region.

He was the darling of his mother and a hero to his colleagues.

In Olago-Kamkwaya village in Bondo, his friends and relatives still remember his generosity.

“He loved his mother and built her a modern house. He was a nice young man,” a neighbour said.


On February 10, the victims’ families held a memorial service at the lake’s shores.

The mourners later conducted a symbolic burial rite at the shores.

Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika said the incident robbed her of close friends and associates who enabled her win the seat during the August 8, 2017 General Election.

Three of the victims worked for Ms Kihika. She described them as fallen soldiers who died in the line of duty.

Leaders at the event included Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura, Liza Chelule (Nakuru Woman Representative), David Gikaria (Nakuru Town East), Samuel Gachobe (Subukia MP), Samuel Arama (Nakuru Town West MP) and Molo MP Kuria Kimani.