The Pilots Who Perished in the Saitoti/Ojode Chopper Crash

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  • Growing from grace and rising to police the skies
    By Ally Jamah

    They both grew from humble backgrounds to fly the skies and emerged as the biggest role models in their villages.

    When they flew the two VIPs and their bodyguards on Sunday before their helicopter crashed killing them and their passengers, they were barely known.

    But unknown to many, Superintendent Nancy Gituanja and Superintendent Luke Oyugi were heroes in their villages who had risen to become role models and an inspiration to many.

    The two police pilots had a lot in common besides their flying career.

    strong odds

    Captain Nancy and Captain Oyugi fought against strong odds in their rural backgrounds to rise to the skies. The big-hearted pilots were benefactors to many family members and many causes.

    Both of them joined the Police Airwing in 2000. Unknown to them, their fate was sealed together until their horrific death on Sunday morning.

    The ill fated helicopter they were piloting carried Internal Security Minister Prof George Saitoti, Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode and two of their body guards who also died.

    Born in Murang’a County, Nancy worked as a sales woman at a clothes shop in Karatina for a year after finishing her secondary school education.

    She later went to teach at a local school in Murang’a. At the time, she used her earnings to help her five brothers and three sisters after her father died.

    She was later recruited into the police force and, thanks to her prayers and determination, she was posted to the Police Airwing, achieving her dream career of flying planes.

    “She had made us respectable in our rural home in Murang’a since there are no many women pilots there. Her death is tragic, and there is no replacement,” her sister, Grace Gituanja, says trying to suppress tears.

    childhood ambitions

    Grace says that since Nancy was young, she always wanted to be a pilot adding she was even determined to pay for her training if she had not secured entry into the Police Airwing.

    “She was the fourth born in the family but everyone looked at her as the leader in the home. She took care of us like she was our mother,” she adds.

    Fortunately, Nancy’s husband, Peter Macharia, is an established businessman and with God’s grace will take care of their three children, who are yet to come to grips with the death of their mother.

    On his part, Captain Oyugi was compelled to be a father figure to his four brothers and sisters early in life when the family lost both parents before they had matured into financial independence.

    Oyugi’s dad passed away when he was in Standard Eight and a few years later when he was in Form Two, his mother passed on leaving him the mantle of leading and providing for the family.

    “When he finished high school, the pressure on him to provide for the family was high. He went into repairing bicycles and also worked as a ticket officer at a bus company,” his sister Elizabeth Anyango, a tailor, recalls.

    His big break came when he was recruited into the General Service Unit where he served for four years before another opportunity to serve in the Police Airwing emerged. He sat the exams to join the airwing and passed.

    “His dream was always to be a pilot and God blessed him. But he never forgot his roots. Everyone in the family looked up to him for leadership and financial help,” says Amos Ngunya, his brother-in-law.

    Oyugi’s widow, Patricia, appealed to the Government to help the families of the fallen pilots financially and morally to continue with life saying she is unable to finance the upkeep of her four children.

    difficult times

    She operates a small salon in Siaya and says she may not be able to pay for the education of her children.

    “I have lived for 17 years with Luke and he was the man I loved most in this world. His loss is just too much for me. I pray God to help me and our family,” she says.

    She says she spoke to her husband on phone before the crash adding he planned to visit her this week.

    He had promised to build her a big house in the near future in their rural home to crown their marriage.

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