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19 Apr, 2024 09:51

Kenyan military chief killed in helicopter crash

Ten officers died in the accident, leaving only two survivors
Kenyan military chief killed in helicopter crash

Kenyan defense chief General Francis Ogolla and nine other military officers were killed on Thursday when their helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff from the village of Chesegon, the East African nation’s president, William Ruto, has announced.

He told reporters in the capital, Nairobi, that the military chief and his team had been visiting troops stationed in northwest Kenya, where they are combating armed banditry and rampant cattle rustling.

However, their aircraft went down just minutes after departing Cheptulel Boys Secondary School in West Pokot County, leaving only two survivors who are currently receiving medical attention, he said.

“Our motherland has lost one of her most valiant generals. The demise of General Ogolla is a painful loss to me... A distinguished four-star general has fallen in the course of duty, and service to [his] country,” the president said.

Ogolla, 61, had been in the position for one year. He led the Kenyan Air Force before becoming the deputy military chief, and was promoted to head of the military by Ruto in April of last year.

According to the Kenyan Defense Ministry, he entered the defense forces in 1984 and trained as a fighter pilot with the United States Air Force before becoming an instructor pilot with the Kenya Air Force (KAF).

Thursday’s incident, as local media inform, was the fifth military helicopter crash in the past 12 months, which have allegedly been linked to poor maintenance.

At least ten soldiers were killed in June 2021 when their helicopter crashed during a training exercise south of Nairobi.

On Thursday, the country’s leader said an air investigation team had been dispatched to establish the cause of the accident, which happened in Elgeyo Marakwet County, around 400km (250 miles) northwest of Nairobi.

Footage shared by the president on X (formerly Twitter) shows the victims’ bodies being returned to the capital covered in Kenyan flags on an air force plane late on Thursday.

Three days of mourning have been declared by the country’s authorities starting on Friday, with official flags set to fly at half-mast.