Four people were feared dead on Tuesday evening after a military helicopter crashed in Tsavo National Park, Taita Taveta county.
Kenya Defense Forces confirmed the accident via Twitter. “Today 12 Jan 21, mid-morning, a Kenya Air Force aircraft, model Harbin Y-12, crashed in Voi, Taita Taveta County. The aircraft was from Moi Air Base, Eastleigh, Nairobi. Recovery efforts are underway,” the KDF tweet read.
Harbin Y-12 or Yunshuji-12 is a twin-engine light multi-role aircraft designed and developed by Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation of China.
Speaking to The Stars, the military sources claimed that the plane had been dispatched to pick vice-chief of the military Levi Mghalu who was at his rural home in Voi.
Poor weather in the area is understood to be the main probable cause of the crash. Sources also cite possible mechanical issues with the plane.
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Senior police and KWS personnel were the first to arrive at the scene to lead rescue operations.
A similar crash in July last year claimed the lives of two army majors — Jacob Agunda and Robert Ngombwa — at Kithyoko in Masinga area, Machakos county. The copter gunship-MD 530F-was among six fighter crafts Kenya had procured from the US in January 2020.
They were part of an initial order of 12 light attack and reconnaissance helicopters meant to enhance the firepower of the military in the wake of sustained attacks by al-Shabab militants.
The helicopters were acquired from the United States through the US Foreign Military Sales programme.
The MD 530F planes are part of the $253 million (Sh25.5 billion) arms deal that Nairobi signed with Washington, and which got the United States Congress approval in May 2017.
The six helicopter gunships were handed over at an event in Nairobi attended by US Army Major General Michael Turello, the commanding general of the Combined Joint Task Force in the Horn of Africa.
US Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter was also present.
Former Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces General Samson Mwathethe received the helicopters at the Joint Helicopter Command in Embakasi, Nairobi.
Tuesday’s crash came in the wake of sustained attacks by al Shabaab militants.