Kenya’s defense chief dies in helicopter crash

Kenya’s defense chief dies in helicopter crash

Kenya’s Chief of Defense Gen. Francis Omondi Ogolla has been killed in a helicopter crash, the East African nation’s president said.

The helicopter with a dozen military personnel on board crashed at about 2:20 p.m. local time Thursday in Western Kenya.

President William Ruto announced the crash in a televised speech. He said Ogolla and nine others were killed. Two people survived but were injured and have been hospitalized.

“Our motherland has lost one of her most valiant generals. We’ve also lost gallant officers, service men and women,” Ruto said.

“The demise of Gen. Ogolla is a painful loss to me and certainly the sorrow we all feel about this passing on is shared by all the people of Kenya and most especially the [Kenya Defense Forces] fraternity. A distinguished four-star general has fallen in the course of duty and in the service of country.”

The helicopter had left Nairobi on Thursday morning as the defense chief had several stops to make throughout the day. Ogolla was heading toward Uasin Gishu County where he was scheduled to visit a recruits training school when the crash occurred shortly after takeoff from Chesegon, the president said.

The Kenya Air Force has dispatched an air investigation team to determine the cause of the crash.

The nation will observe three days of morning starting Friday, he said.

Later Thursday, the remains of the victims of the crash were returned to Nairobi where religious leaders held prayers for the dead.

In Washington, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan offered his condolences, describing Ogolla as a “valuable partner” in the Kenya-U.S. relationships.

“From combatting terrorist threats posed by al-Shabaab to leading efforts to bolster regional cooperation across a range of domains, he has left an indelible mark,” Sullivan said in a statement published by the White House.

“Throughout his career, the United States enjoyed a close relationship with Gen. Ogolla, who received pilot training alongside our own officers in the United States and developed strong relationships with U.S. diplomatic and defense leaders, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin.

“Our hearts go out to General Ogolla’s family and the loved ones of all the victims in today’s crash. We share Kenya’s grief for this tragedy and offer our resolute support in the days ahead.”

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