'No warning signs': Family grapples with KCAA staff's 'suicide'

Saturday March 23 2019

KCAA staff Vincent Kiprop Koech

Vincent Kiprop Koech, the employee of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, who died on March 22, 2019 after jumping from a control tower at Moi International Airport in Mombasa. PHOTO | COURTESY 

WINNIE ATIENO
By WINNIE ATIENO
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It is unbelievable that Vincent Kiprop Koech, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority employee who died in Mombasa on Friday, committed suicide, his family has said following confirmation by the organisation.

In a statement earlier on Saturday, KCAA Director-General Gilbert Kibe said the aerodrome control officer II "lost his life after jumping from the control tower in unclear circumstances".

Vincent, 29, was based at Moi International Airport.

His brother who was in Mombasa viewed the body at Aga Khan Hospital mortuary. He was not in a position to speak to the Nation.

His sister Fidelis Koech said, “Give him time. They were very close."

NO SIGNS

Fidelis said her brother was always "very happy" so they could not believe that he had taken his own life.

“Even in our family WhatsApp group he did not show any signs of stress. He was very okay. He was not on Facebook ... he said it was for idlers. He used to be very jovial. When I hear people saying he committed suicide I do not understand."

Vincent's father Sigira Koech, a retired teacher, said they always spoke after work but that on the fateful day, he called him at around 10am.

“It was a bit odd because he called very early and was very quick. But I did not think anything peculiar or fishy [of that] because we discussed family matters ... the usual things . He did not talk about anything he was undergoing."

Mr Koech also said that Vincent, the last born in a family of five children, did not exhibit any signs of being under pressure.

“He was a sharp boy. He had a first class honours B.SC. in Meteorology from the University of Nairobi. He was not somebody you could push around. He [had worked at KCAA] for a year and three months,” he said in a phone interview from Kericho.

AUTOPSY

The family noted that an autopsy would neither shed light on the suspected psychological problems Vincent suffered nor reveal if he was pushed from the tower.

“We leave everything to God ... Mungu mwenyewe anajua (God knows). We were briefed by the KCAA on what happened. We don’t have any more information. There is nothing more I can say,” he said.

It was not clear exactly why the KCAA employee jumped to his death but the incident brought to the fore the subject of mental stability and disorders such as depression, where the result is suicide.

Vincent's case came days after that of Dr Hamisi Ali Juma, who died by suicide while undergoing a government-sponsored training in Cuba. He had been pursuing a postgraduate diploma in family medicine.

Dr Juma was buried in Likoni after a second post-mortem at the Coast Provincial General Hospital to ascertain the cause of death.

According to Dr Juma’s sister, Likoni lawmaker Mishi Mboko, he had been planning to travel back home last Tuesday to check on his wife and eight-month-old son.

Ms Mboko said Dr Juma spoke of frustrations due to the working conditions in Cuba when they talked two weeks ago.

“He complained that they were poorly paid. He had decided to come back home for good,” she said.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union has asked the government to end the programme for the sake of the well-being of Kenyan doctors.