Saturday, September 08, 2012

Kenya: Eurocopter Told to Say Sorry Over Leaked Report

Eurocopter, the manufacturers of the ill-fated aircraft that crashed in Ngong killing two cabinet ministers and four police officers has been given an ultimatum of seven days to apologize over a premature report into the accident. The Commission of Inquiry probing the crash yesterday ruled that Eurocopter should "tender an unconditional apology to the commission for improper and unauthorized dissemination of the report" to the Commission.

The commission, headed by Judge Kalpana Rawal, said the manufacturing company had violated the Convention of the International Civil Aviation, by disclosing information about an air crash without the authority of the Kenyan government. A ruling read out by one of the commissioners, Harold Tangai, also directed the Star and The Standard newspapers to apologize within the same period for publishing the leaked preliminary report by Eurocopter.

On Tuesday, Eurocopter lawyer Antony Gross introduced the report allegedly prepared by French investigators and emailed it to the commissioners and counsels at the commission without following the procedure. The leak sparked off protests from lawyers representing families, the police and the civil aviation authority who argued that it was a breach of confidentiality and the publication was aimed at derailing the commissions work.

Lawyers Fred Ngatia representing Saitoti family, Gikunda Miriti (for the police), Ashford Muriuki (for pilot Nancy Gituanja's family), Mayiani Sankale for the family of Joshua Tonkei said the report appeared to have concluded the cause of the accident when the commission was trying resolve the same.

The hurriedly prepared report had arrived at conclusions which indicated the crash might have been due to pilot error. The aircraft came down on the morning of June 10 killing Internal Security Minister George Saitoti , his Deputy Orwa Ojode and two police guards Thomas Murimi and Joshua Tonkei and pilots Capt Nancy Gituanja and Like Oyugi.

The commission yesterday directed Eurocopter to tender an apology to be published in all leading newspapers in the country in the next seven days or they would consider further action against the helicopter manufacturer. The ruling observed that the publication had given an impression that the report was already part and parcel of the commission.

In a heated submission on Tuesday, lawyers of the crash victims called for stiffer penalties against Eurocopter for first tendering the report to the commission in an unprocedural manner that led to subsequent leakage to the media. The commission adjourned yesterday for one week and will resume public hearings on September 17. The stripping of the engine is expected on Monday at the Lady Lory facility at the Wilson Airport.


In our September 5 edition of the Star, we published preliminary report by Eurocopter which had pointed at pilot error as possible cause of the helicopter crash that killed six people among them Internal Security Minister George Saitoti and his deputy Orwa Ojodeh. We take this earliest opportunity to apologize to the families of the crash victims and to the commission probing the incident that our intention was neither to give conclusion to the cause of the crash nor to interfere with the investigations. We hope to set the record straight that the Commission is the one mandated with investigating the cause of the crash while the report by BEA team, Eurocopter and Turbomeca was a preliminary report carried out on their own without the government authority.

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