A complete investigation report on what caused the crash of Bell 505 helicopter in Turkana on March 3, 2019, has been released.
The aircraft of registration 5Y-KDL, owned by Kwae Island Development Limited (KIDL), had five people on board, including a Kenyan (the pilot) and four American nationals, who died on the spot after the helicopter caught fire shortly after crashing at the Central Island National Park in Lake Turkana, Turkana County.
The aircraft was heading to Lobolo Camp from Lake Turkana at the time of the accident.
An investigation report released on Wednesday, March 10 by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, James Macharia, has placed blame on darkness, pilot’s negligence and the pilot’s unfamiliarity with the helicopter as the key causes of the fatal crash.
“Investigations of the accident involving 5Y-KDL determined the facts, conditions and circumstances of the accident and concluded that the accident was most likely due to the pilot’s spatial disorientation in dark night conditions that led to loss of control of the aircraft and subsequent inflight collision with terrain,” said Macharia.
“[Another] contributing factor to the accident was initiation of the flight without a comprehensive pre-flight evaluation, consequently assigning the flight to a pilot who was not in conformance with the necessary flight experience requirement of the aircraft type.”
The probe, conducted by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Department (AAID), issued safety recommendations in its Final Report to Helicopter manufacturers and KIDL.
The recommendations include: manufacturers to equip turbine-powered helicopters with crash-resistance systems capable of recording flight data, cockpit audio, and images; KIDL to ensure compliance with their approved procedures and enhance the training of flight crew in threat management, situation awareness, communication, decision-making, and understanding of the aircraft system, and establish requirements and standards for instrument flight and night flight training.
“KIDL to ensure all their helicopters are placed in a flight following system for real-time tracking,” recommended AAID.
Following the March 3, 2019 crash, the U.S. Embassy in Kenya listed three of the four dead Americans as Anders Asher Jesiah Burke, Brandon Howe Stapper and Kyle John Forti.
The Kenyan national, who was piloting the aircraft, was identified as Capt. Marious Magonga.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) said two helicopters took off from the island on the night of March 3, 2019 heading for Lobolo Camp on the mainland. Rescuers found the wreckage early morning on March 4, according to Gilbert Kibe, the Director-General of the KCAA.
“Shortly after take-off, unfortunately one of the helicopters, a Bell 505, registration 5Y-KDL, lost contact and crashed on the island,” Kibe said in a statement.
The Bell 505, which was written off following the crash, had been delivered in 2018 to KIDL Helicopter Operations, a Nairobi-based company specialising in VIP transport. On its website, KIDL described chief pilot “Mario” Magonga as an ATP and qualified helicopter instructor trained in the Kenya Defence Forces with more than 5,500 hours of experience on single and multi-engine types.