Three dead when plane crashes after take off

Saturday, January 25, 2003

NAIROBI, Kenya -- A plane carrying members of Kenya's new government crashed in western Kenya on Friday, killing one minister, the two pilots and seriously injuring at least three other ministers, the president's spokesman said.

The 24-seat chartered Gulfstream carrying 12 people crashed shortly after 6 p.m. as it was taking off from an airstrip in Busia on the Ugandan border, spokesman Isaiah Kabira said.

Labor Minister Ahmad Mohamed Khalif was killed in the accident, Kabira said.

Western Province police chief Peter Kimanthi confirmed the deaths and said the jet hit a house near the airstrip as it struggled to gain altitude on takeoff. It then hit a utility pole and went nose first into a second house, he said.

It was not clear whether anyone was inside the brick houses, which were destroyed, Kimanthi said, adding that the cause of the crash was not known.

National Security Minister Christopher Murungaru later told reporters the plane -- which was chartered from Flamingo Airlines, a subsidiary of Kenya Airways -- lost control after hitting a pothole in the airstrip.

Murungaru said all the injured were out of danger and would be taken by ambulance to Kisumu airport 60 miles southeast of Busia for a flight to Nairobi. Busia was plunged into darkness after the plane hit the power lines, he said.

Trade Minister Mukhisa Kituyi, who got off the aircraft in Busia, and another witness, said the plane crashed after it hit power lines.

Other government officials on the plane included the water resources minister, the minister of state in the office of the vice president, the information and tourism minister and the assistant justice minister, Kabira said.

It was not immediately known which ministers were seriously injured.

Also on the plane were a legislator, a former legislator's wife and a leading lawyer.

Benson Buluma, a reporter with the East African Standard who witnessed the crash, told KTN television that the airstrip was in poor condition and after takeoff the plane hit power lines, rolled and landed on buildings.

The plane was taking the passengers from Busia to the Lake Victoria port of Kisumu where the government officials were to attend the commemoration of a leading opposition figure who died nine years ago.

The flight had originated in Nairobi. Trade minister Kituyi got off the flight at Busia, along with the home affairs minister and the attorney general.

A new government, led by President Mwai Kibaki, took office after winning historic Dec. 27 elections that ousted the Kenya Africa National Union, which had ruled Kenya since independence from Britain in 1963.

Kibaki, who took over from former President Daniel arap Moi, is currently in Nairobi Hospital, recovering from ankle and arm injuries sustained in Dec. 3 car crash. He was readmitted to hospital last week suffering from a blood clot and slightly high blood pressure. He is expected to leave hospital next week.

Military helicopters were sent to the crash scene to take the injured to Nairobi, Kabira said.

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