How Saitoti, Ojode Died In The Chopper Crash
When I got a text from a friend saying “Four perish in a plane crash in Ngong” I didn’t take it that seriously.It was about 9:30am.
I thought it was just the usual false alarm we get in the newsroom. So I went straight to Twitter, a new source of breaking news for journalists.
And there it was Kenya Redcross had tweeted that a police helicopter had crashed and killed all on board.
News started sifting in and it emerged that among the four was Internal Security minister Pro George Saitoti.
My first instinct was to call my good friend Peterson Githaiga, Saitoti’s personal photographer. He picked and was in a state of shock and he confirmed that indeed waziri(minister) was in that police helicopter that crashed.
Being a Sunday, and a slow one at that, I decided to roll to the crash scene. In the newsroom we say it is better to go and bounce than ignore the story.
Getting transport means was a hurdle because all our drivers were off duty and the only available vehicle was taking a TV crew to cover Raila Odinga's rally in Nakuru.
After bargaining with our head driver for sometime - all this while seething with anger because as a photojournalist I knew we were wasting valuable picture time , we got a driver. And off to Kibiku forest - in Ngong.
The journey to Ngong was fast and the driver advised us to use our safety belts. We were traveling at about 120-130kms/hour.
On the way several police vans passed us with sirens in full blast. My worst fear was confirmed; indeed the ministers must have died.
Ngong town was in a sombre mood - they had lost their member of parliament, Saitoti, who was also a presidential candidate. We proceeded to Kibiku - the scene of the crash.
And on our way, we were stopped by police and also interrupted by a heavy traffic jam caused by vehicles that had formed a long queue of about 7kms. Armed with a camera, I decided to run all the way to the crash scene, penetrating through a barrier of concerned masses.
After sweating it out, I finally reached the crash scene or so, I thought. But it was the first barrier to the scene.
Being the Internal Security minister and his assistant Orwa Ojode, security was hyper high.
I sneaked in just to capture the photo of Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka leaving the scene. But my eyes were more focused on the crash scene itself. I didn’t wait for Kalonzo’s speech.
When I arrived at the scene, which was covered by thick thickets, I could not see the crash site and police had totally cordoned off the whole area. They were adamant that press time for taking photos was up.
But I charmed them for a whole 20 minutes, my finger ready on the camera. When I realised I was not making headway I decided to sneak through the thickest and get a photo.
By then, there was no crowd at the scene. As I moved through the bushes without any warning, the gory image of assistant minister Orwa Ojode met me.
He was burnt out with one hand lifted as if asking for help. I recognised him because of the unique head features. The intensity of the crash finally dawned on me.
A few metres away, the horror of the crash was there for me to capture. I froze momentarily before composing the photos and clicking away.
The area was totally burnt out and the new police helicopter had been reduced to a heap of metallic rubble.
Four charred bodies remained intact but burnt beyond recognition, one still strapped on the seat with a safety belt.
There is no way one could tell who the victims were. Only the tail of the chopper remained intact with its registration number AS350 B3e with Kenya’s flag and the blue and white police colors being the only clue that it was a police chopper.
Flesh was strewn all over the place.
Saitoti trademark grey checked jacket being the only sign there - showing the horror of his death.
And a police officer eager now to show me the scene pulled me aside and pointed in the diretcion where the body of the mathematics professor was.
Saitoti was lying about 10 metres away from the actual crash point, his naked belly facing up. His face could not be seen but his legs had been cut at the thigh. One of his hands was missing.
It looked as if he tried to run from the scene of the crash but without his two legs it was difficult to tell how. I took the photos which I knew I would never use in my newspaper because of ethical standards.
After the scene of crime officers were done, the Kenya Red Cross personnel were at hand to collect the bodies that were taken to Lee Funeral home.
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Updated on 2013-05-09 09:25
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