How heavily drunk pilot crashed Jubilee election chopper

During the burial of Captain Apollo Malowa in Bondo in November 2017, his mother Dorothy Malowa described him as a hard-working, disciplined and principled young man with a good work ethic who had a promising career and future.

At 34, the highflying pilot had flown presidents, prime ministers, businessmen and politicians, and had risen to be the director of flight safety at Flex Air Charters where he was employed when he left the Kenya Air Force.

On the morning of October 21, 2017, Kenyans woke up to news that a helicopter involved in President Kenyatta’s campaign, that was being piloted by Malowa, had crashed into Lake Nakuru. All the five people on board died and to date the bodies of two of them have never been recovered.

Apollo Malowa, the pilot of the helicopter that crashed in Lake Nakuru in October 21, 2017. An investigation report of the crash has revealed that the pilot, who died in the crash, was drunk at the time of the accident.

It was a sad ending for the pilot who once landed on a road in Siaya just to say hi to his mother and whose social media pages were albums of a young man living the life his agemates could only dream of.

Then the rumour mills begun and for the last two years, Kenyans have been speculating on what caused the crash.

A report on the crash has finally put an end to speculations. It revealed that Malowa may not have had a good work ethic, after all. He was drunk at the time of the crash.

The wreckage

The report handed to the Transport ministry by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Unit, which the Nation has seen, says the level of alcohol in Malowa’s blood would not have allowed him to drive a car.

“Toxicology tests conducted on the samples of the pilot’s blood revealed presence of alcohol at a concentration of 41mg per 100ml which is equivalent to 0.041% of alcohol in the blood,” says the report.

The report says that Malowa, who was flying an AS350 airbus helicopter registration number 5Y-NMJ, was so heavily intoxicated that he violated several aviation regulations, including flying above a built up area and below 800ft above the ground before losing control.

Contrary to safety

“A person shall not act or attempt to be a crew member of an aircraft within eight hours after consumption of alcohol, under influence of alcohol, while using drugs that affect the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety or while having alcohol concentration of 0.04 per cent of blood,” says the report.

The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has set 0.35mg per 100ml Blood Alcohol Content as the maximum allowable intoxication limit for anyone who has taken alcohol and wishes to drive. Anything above that allows the police to arrest you on sight for Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

If Malowa had attempted to drive in his state after leaving Platinun 7D in Nakuru that night, he would have been arrested and kept in police cells till morning for driving while drunk. But he was a pilot with a chopper waiting and a random woman picked from a nightclub needed to be impressed.

Investigations show that the helicopter arrived in Jarika County Lodge from Wilson Airport, Nairobi, the previous day at 3pm in the command of Malowa and one unidentified passenger. President Kenyatta, who was campaigning for re-election after the first presidential poll was nullified by the Supreme Court, was supposed address a rally the following day in Mau Narok.

Jubilee had contracted Flex Air Charters for their logistics during the campaigns and part of the job was flying a group of five journalists nicknamed ‘The Sky Team.’ Malowa’s journey to Nakuru was to pick up the journalists, who were already at Jarika County Lodge, and fly them the next day to Mau Narok in order to link up with the presidential campaign team.

But immediately after landing in Nakuru, Malowa got other ideas.

“…the pilot first checked in and spent less than an hour after which he was picked up by an unidentified car,” says the report.

There are several unexplained hours between Malowa leaving Jarika hotel till his return the following morning at 3am. However waiters at Platinum 7D told investigators that the pilot had been seen at the club in the company of unknown people having drinks. He left shortly before 3am in a white taxi with three men and a woman.

The first man was John Ndirangu alias John Mapozi, a blogger for Jubilee Party, who was attached to Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika.

The second was Sam Gitau, a jack of all trades, who even tried his luck in music but did not go beyond the first round of Tusker Project Fame auditions in 2013. In 2017, he joined Ms Kihika’s campaign as a driver before joining the media team.

Digital campaign

The third was Antony Kipyegon, a driver who worked closely with Gitau and Mapozi. The three were part of the wider Jubilee digital campaign team that called itself “System ya Facts Digital Team.”

Then there was Veronica Muthoni, a fresh graduate, who was at the wrong place at the wrong time after agreeing to be picked up by the three at the club.

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