Turkana chopper crash adds to long list of Kenyan air disasters

Wednesday March 18 2020

The wreckage of the helicopter that crashed into Lake Nakuru in October 2017 claiming the lives of five people being retrieved from the water. Over the years, several plane disasters have hit the Kenyan airspace. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The fatal helicopter crash on Sunday at Lobolo Camp on the shores of Lake Turkana that claimed the life of Deputy President William Ruto’s pilot adds to the long list of aircraft disasters that have rocked Kenya’s airspace.

From helicopters to light, fixed-wing aircraft and large commercial planes, Kenya has a long history planes dropping from the skies.

Here is a timeline of some of Kenya’s air disasters:

  • February 13, 2019 – FlySax 540 plane crash claimed the lives of five people near Makutano Forest in Londiani, Kericho County. All the five occupants of the Cessna 206-5Y BSE, a man and two women, who are Americans, a Kenyan pilot and another passenger of unknown nationality, perished.
  • June 5, 2018 - A FlySax aircraft crashed in the Aberdares, killing all 10 passengers – two crew members and eight passengers who were on their way to Nairobi. The plane went off radar shortly after taking off from the Kitale airstrip that evening.
  • October 2017 – A helicopter carrying five passengers crashed into Lake Nakuru and killed everyone on board. What followed was a multiagency search for bodies that went on for weeks. By the time the search was called off, only three of the five bodies had been retrieved from the murky waters. Those who died were pilot Apolo Malowa, Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika’s aides Anthony Kipyegon, Sam Gitau and John Mapozi, and a student, Veronica Muthoni. Gitau and Mapozi’s bodies were never found.
  • 2016 – A Sh2.2 billion police chopper crashed in Mathare. Four officers were injured after a brand new Agusta Westland 139 police helicopter crashed in Nairobi’s Mathare North. "The plane stalled in the air for some 10 minutes before the pilot tried to go back but it crashed," one officer said.
  • 2012 Plane crash in Ngong Hills kills the then Internal Security minister, Prof George Saitoti, and his assistant Orwa Ojode. This is one of the most high profile plane crashes in Kenya’s history. Their two bodyguards, Thomas Murimi and Joshua Tongei, and the two pilots, Nancy Gituanja and Luke Oyugi, also died. Their ill-fated flight took off from Wilson Airport in Nairobi and was headed to Ojode’s Ndiwa Constituency for a fundraiser. A committee appointed by then President Mwai Kibaki to investigate the crash ruled that it was an accident but critics said that the findings of the committee were suspect and raised questions about the presence of carbon monoxide in the pilots’ lungs and on whether or not Prof Saitoti died before the crash, suggesting foul play.
  • 2008 – Roads minister Kipkalya Kones dies alongside Lorna Laboso, an assistant minister in the Vice President’s office, in a plane crash. The ministers died on the eve of five by-elections, two of them occasioned by the brutal killings of two ODM MPs — Embakasi’s Mugabe Were and Ainamoi’s Kimutai Too — giving the tragedy an even more ominous twist. Kones, who was also the Bomet MP, and Laboso, the Sotik MP, were both on assignment to oversee the by-election in Ainamoi on behalf of their ODM party
  • April 2006 Plane crash in Marsabit kills 14 people, among them five MPs. The MPs who perished in that crash were Bonaya Godana, Mirugi Kariuki, the then assistant minister for Internal Security, Titus Ngoyoni, Abdi Sasura and Guracha Galgallo Boru. The crash was attributed to bad weather.
  • January 24, 2003 – Plane crash in Busia kills Labour minister Ahmed Khalif and injures other dignitaries. Mr Khalif and the two pilots flying the plane died in a nearby hospital where they had been taken shortly after the 5pm crash while three other ministers — Raphael Tuju (Tourism), Linah Kilimo (Office of the President), and Martha Karua (Water) — were later airlifted to Nairobi with injuries. The crash happened as the 22-seater Gulfstream One plane took off from a local airstrip. The government officials had attended a homecoming party for then vice-president Moody Awori at his Funyula home.
  • 1978 – Agriculture minister Bruce Mackenzie, the only white person in founding president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s cabinet, killed when his plane crashed in Ngong Hills. It was at the same location that Prof George Saitoti died in 2012. Mackenzie was widely believed to be a spy for the British and Israeli governments and his death was suspected to have been insitigated by Ugandan secret agents who planted a bomb in his plane causing it to explode mid-flight.


Kenya’s aviation sector has been relatively safe, with the country’s national carrier, Kenya Airways, suffering only two major plane crashes in its history.

  • January 2000 - Flight KQ431 flying the Abidjan-Lagos-Nairobi route crashes into the Atlantic Ocean minutes after take-off from Cote d’Ivoire killing 169 people, leaving only 10 survivors. Investigations showed that the plane developed mechanical complications putting it into a nose dive which the pilots were unable to correct. The aircraft involved in the crash was an Airbus A310-304, registration 5Y-BEN, named Harambee Star.
  • 2007 – Flight KQ507, also flying from Abidjan with a stopover in Douala then onwards to Nairobi crashes into a swamp right after take-off and kills all 114 people on board.


The highest fatality from a plane crash on Kenyan airspace was the 1992 incident where 46 people, among them 20 servicemen, died when their military helicopter crashed in Kaloleni. Six more soldiers on the ground were also killed in that crash.