Saitoti ‘may have died before copter crash’

Written By Michael Maunda on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 | 9:35 PM

A pathologist who examined the bodies of former Internal Security minister George Saitoti and his deputy Orwa Ojode a day after the crash has said the deaths may have occurred before the aircraft came down.
Dr Dorothy Njeru on Tuesday told the Justice Kalpana Rawal commission investigating the accident that the ministers may have died from inhaling a poisonous gas before the helicopter crashed.
Saitoti ‘may have died before copter crash’
Autopsies on the six victims of the June 10 mishap, the commission was told, revealed “cherry pink” patches on their bodies, indicating that high levels of carbon monoxide were inhaled and the crash may not have been “a normal aviation accident.”
Dr Njeru said she made the observations of the tell-tale signs of poisoning while a colleague documented her dictation. “However, omissions were made in the final report on the cherry pink discolouration I noticed during the post-mortem.”
She said the post-mortem examination was done at the Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi at the request of the CID. “I pointed out that we had information we should have captured which was not,” Dr Njeru said.
She told the commission there were a “few missing details” in the final cause of death report compiled by section head Dr Johanssen Oduol and handed over to the police.
She disputed the presence of another doctor whose signatures appear in the autopsy reports, saying she did not recall the doctor being present.
“The key features that were not documented was the presence of the reddish discolouration of the internal organs, which in forensic terminology, is referred to as cherry pink,” Dr Njeru said, adding that the final description of victims’ injuries was “brief” and the “degree of their burns also not quantified.”

She said the photographs from the scene of the accident and the ones taken during the post-mortem showed the characteristic bright red discolouration, indicating a high concentration of poisonous gas.

“The reddish patch suggestive of carbon monoxide poisoning was an additional observation that was not captured in the post-mortem reports,” Dr Njeru said.

She said an internal examination of the bodies of Thomas Murimi, Luke Oyugi and Nancy Gituanja also showed the presence of soot in their respiratory systems and was also not entered in the final report. She said the ministers also had soot in their systems.
“Honourable Ojode’s body had a discoloration around the knee and on the left lower limb. We did not document the cherry red in our report,” she said.

She said a close examination of Prof Saitoti’s body showed a bright red discolouration on the right thigh while his bodyguard, Mr Joshua Tonkei, had it on the forehead and left knee.
“The presence of the cherry red appearance indicated they had concentration levels exceeding 30 per cent,” said Dr Njeru.

She explained that toxic exposure may lead to mental incapacitation, confusion and convulsions that may result in a pilot losing control of an aircraft. She said the gas may have been a result of a fire in confined space.
Asked why the team failed to produce a more conclusive report on the cause of deaths, she said several problems affected their work, ranging from lack of equipment, adequate room and time to consult with other experts.

Source: Daily Nation