Ministers Son Dies as Chopper Crashes on Him!!!!
Published on May 15, 2008, 12:00 am
By Andrew Teyie and Kepher Otieno
The son of Kenya's Public Service minister, Mr Dalmas Otieno, died in a freak helicopter accident in British Columbia, Canada, on Tuesday.
The burning helicopter fell from the sky and buried Isaiah Otieno, 23, a college student, under a fireball, Canwest News Service reported in its website. He was walking to the post office to send a letter to his parents in Kenya when tragedy struck.
Otieno was a business student in the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook.
The Bell 206 helicopter, operated by Bighorn Helicopters, a local charter company, was surveying power lines when it fell from a clear blue sky. It was carrying two British Columbia Hydro employees and a pilot. The three died in the inferno.
The helicopter crashed in a residential neighbourhood of Cranbrook, 362km southwest of Calgary, Mr Bill Yearwood, the regional manager for the Transportation Safety Board, said.
In Kenya, the Otieno family said they received news of the tragedy with profound shock.
"News of his death reached us at around noon on Tuesday," his father, Dalmas, who is also the Rongo MP, told The Standard when reached on the telephone as news of the tragedy filtered in.
"We were informed by the college administration," he disclosed. "We are making arrangements to travel to Canada. We are in contact with the authorities there."
News of the death threw into disarray plans for a homecoming party for Dalmas, which was to be attended by Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Speaking from Canada, the Kenya Community Association (KCO) head, Mr Benson Ondoro, termed as tragic the manner in which the student met his death.
"We are working as a team with the Kenya Community in British Columbia to do our best," said Ondoro, who was joined by the acting Kenya High Commissioner to Canada, Mr Kennedy Wekesa, and Immigration Officer, Mr Dan Opon.
Horrified onlookers watched as the ill-fated helicopter appeared to struggle to remain in the air. It then crashed in a ball of flames. According to a friend of the deceased, Mr Isaac Hockley, the younger Otieno was "the most loyal kid".
He had moved to Cranbrook two years ago for business studies at the College of the Rockies, said Hockley.
"He was really into politics because of his dad, so he really stood up for what was right," Hockley said.
A teacher, Mr Joe Pierre, was driving to work and was startled to see the helicopter flying very low above his car. His attention turned to Otieno who was walking across the street.
"I thought to myself: Now there is a happy-looking guy," recalled Pierre.
"It was his face. It was his gait. He just looked happy and then wham! It just happened in that second. My car was jarred and I looked out of the window and there was a fireball explosion."
Pierre, 40, pulled over and saw Otieno lying on the street, his clothes on fire. Two men raced out of their houses, pulled the man away from the wreckage and tried to douse his burning clothes.
Mr Fred Deschamps used a water hose, while the second man tried to smother the flames with a towel. But it was too late to save Otieno.
Deschamps, 62, had been looking out of his kitchen window when he saw the inferno and ran out to the street to help.
"We got the flames out. But Im pretty sure he was dead by then," he recalled.
The retiree said: "It was not a pretty sight, I tell you. Im just glad my grandchildren were not playing in the back yard."
Ms Ilona Corrigal, who lives near the crash site, heard a loud boom, and then looked out to see the helicopter on fire and a man crawling on the road.
"There were five or six young men, shirts and jackets off swatting his body, trying to put out the fire. Even his shoes were on fire," she said.
"He raised his arm in the air, and then it dropped and he was dead."
Courtesy Canwest News Service