Ministers killed in plane crash
Published on June 11, 2008, 12:00 am
By Standard Team
The nation was last night stunned by the death in a plane crash of Roads Minister Kipkalya Kones and Lorna Laboso, an Assistant Minister in the Office of the Vice-President.
That the ministers died on the eve of five by-elections, two occasioned by the brutal killings of two MPs — Mugabe Were (ODM, Embakasi) and Kimutai Too (ODM, Ainamoi) — gave the tragedy an even more ominous twist. It would appear that the jinx that so much dogged the Kibaki administration in his first term as President had returned to wreak havoc on the Grand Coalition Government.
Kones, the Bomet MP, and Laboso, the Sotik MP, were both on assignment to oversee the by-election in Ainamoi today on behalf of their party, ODM.
The extent to which the fate of the two legislators appeared intertwined—in their last days—was also poignantly captured in the fact that their Sotik and Bomet constituencies are near each other.
Laboso’s demise is a case of a rising political star nipped so cruelly, so early in the bud, while Kones’ death brings the curtain down on the life of a man who had lately acquired the status of a regional political kingpin.Questions
There were more questions than answers over the safety of leaders and the often, but seemingly inevitable tendency to travel in groups in the same aircraft — a trend that for the third time on Tuesday plunged the nation into mourning.
|Kipkalya Kones: 1952 — 2008|
|1983: Vied for a parliamentary seat for the first time and lost to Isaac Salat in Bomet.|
|1988: First elected Bomet MP in 1988|
|1988-2002: Served as minister in the Office of the President, Public Works, and Technical Training.|
|2002: Lost Bomet parliamentary seat|
|2005: Declined assistant minister position|
|2008: Appointed Minister for Roads|
Initial reports indicated that the ill-fated Cessna 210E plane, registration number 5YBVE, which left Wilson Airport at 2.18pm with the ministers and two others— a bodyguard and the pilot—crashed in bad weather, killing all the occupants.
Police said search teams pulled out the bodies from the crash scene, the remote hilly and forested Kojong’a in Nairegi-Enkare, Narok District.
The bodies lay overnight at the Narok District Hospital and would be flown to Nairobi’s Lee Funeral Home today.
Also killed in the crash was the pilot, who police identified as Mr Schner Christopher, and Kones’ bodyguard, Kenneth Kipruto Bett.
President Kibaki, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Prime Minister Raila Odinga last night led the nation in mourning. The President ordered that flags be flown half-mast.
“In the interim, our investigation shows that the plane came down in bad weather,” Mr Peter Wakihia, the Director of Investigation at the Transport ministry, told The Standard on the telephone.
The aircraft, which crashed shortly before 3pm, was expected to land at an airstrip in Kericho.
Police Air-wing Commandant, Mr Gilbert Gitonga, said last night: “We got the reports of the incident a few minutes after 3pm.”
He described the crash site as a forest and infested area with escarpments rising as high as 10, 000 feet above sea level.No lessons learnt
The crash brought memories of the Busia and Marsabit air crashes flooding back with a chilling warning that few lessons had been learnt.
On January 24, 2003 Narc had just won elections and ministers and MPs were in a party mood. They attended Funyula MP’s Mr Moody Awori’s homecoming in a chartered flight, but as fate would have it, the plane crashed after taking off from Busia Airstrip, killing Labour minister, Ahmed Khalif.
|Lorna Laboso1961 — 2008|
|1984-1992: Worked at Kenya Tea Growers
|2001: Enrolled for a BA degree at Daystar University.|
|2002: Vied for the Sotik seat and lost.|
|2007: Elected as MP for Sotik|
|2008: Appointed Assistant Minister|
Six other MPs were injured. They were Mr Raphael Wanjala, Ms Martha Karua, Ms Jebii Kilimo, Mr Joshua Toro, Mr George Khaniri and Mr Raphael Tuju.
Then the ghosts came back on April 10, 2006, when another plane crash in Marsabit killed six MPs and 14 other passengers. This was one of the biggest air disasters to befall the country.
However, more than five years after the Busia plane crash, the Government is yet to issue instructions regulating group travel for senior officials.
The recommendation was one of those made by Dr Lee Muthoga’s team that was mandated to investigate the crash in Khalif perished in 2003. The report suggested that senior Government officials refrain from traveling in groups, an idea that leaders have not heeded.
The April 30, 2003 report had 16 recommendations, but they have not been made public to date.
Leading the nation in mourning yesterday, President Kibaki said: “It is with deep sorrow and grief that I send my condolences to the families of Hon Kones, Hon Laboso, Police Officer Kenneth Bett and the Pilot Schner-Christopher. I wish them God’s grace during this trying moment.”
Stunned by the tragedy, Raila said: “ODM has lost two more MPs, a bright star in the name of Lorna Laboso and a wise and seasoned politician in Kipkalya Kones.”
Speaking in the presence of 34 ODM MPs, Raila added: “The two were leading lights in the Kipsigis community and they were the most eloquent champions.”
On his part, Vice-President Mr Kalonzo Musyoka termed the deaths shocking and a setback to the healing and reconciliation efforts following the post-election chaos.
“Our country is today engulfed by a dark cloud. We have lost two senior leaders who were in the forefront of building a new Kenya,” the VP said.
The Cessna 210 Centurion, which killed the ministers, is a six-seater, high-performance, retractable-gear single-engine general aviation aircraft, which was first flown in January, 1957. However, production was stopped in 1985.