Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Media locked out of copter crash proceedings

NAIROBI; KENYA: The commission of inquiry probing the copter crash that killed the late Internal Security Minister George Saitoti and five others in June excluded the media and the public from a crucial report presented by the Government chief investigator about the crash.

The probe team, led by Lady Justice Kalpana Rawal, asked the media to leave the chambers on Mondy just when the commission’s Chief Investigator Clatus Mcowenga was about to present his much-awaited report about the accident.

Rawal made the move at the request of Mcowenga, but no reasons were given.

Mr Mcowenga was scheduled to testify on Monday, according to the commission’s Lead Assisting Counsel Lucy Kambuni, but he requested last minute to present his report in the commission’s boardroom.

Caught off-guard

The lawyers of the families as well as Eurocopter and police appeared to have been caught off-guard, with Saitoti family lawyer Fredrick Ngatia resisting the move.

“How shall we capture the evidence in a boardroom? This is his formal evidence and we have some issues with him?” asked Ngatia.

According to the regulations that formed the commission, Justice Rawal has powers to exclude the public from its proceedings if it deems it reasonable.

Yesterday, the engineer who stripped down the engine and gearbox of the ill-fated plane told the commission there was very little likelihood of fire beginning from the gearbox despite having boiling oil.

“If a fire would occur there, a sensor would immediately send warning signals to the pilot to take action,” said Engineer Peter Njagi

Poisonous gas

Questioned by police lawyer Gikunda Miriti, the engineer said there was no possibility of a poisonous gas being accidentally pumped into the cabin of the aircraft where the passengers and pilots were seated while warming the air in the cabin.

He told lawyer Mayani Sankale (representing Saitoti bodyguard Tonkei) that only a person licensed by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority can release a copter into service, even if that person is from the manufacturers of the plane.

In response to commissioner Peter Maranga question about likelihood of fire in the engine while the plane is on air, the engineer said that the engine has three fire detectors that would alert the pilot in good time.

On Wednesday the commission is expected to hear a testimony by a renowned pathologist about the postmortems conducted on the six crash victims by Government pathologists.

Saitoti’s deputy Orwa Ojode died alongside him in the crash.

Source:  http://www.standardmedia.co.ke

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