Nairobi: Kenya's internal security minister and his deputy were among six government officials killed in a police helicopter crash on Sunday near the capital Nairobi, Kenyan media reported.
George Saitoti, a US-educated economist and mathematician, and his assistant Orwa Ojode were in the police helicopter that crashed near a forest in Ngong town, Xinhua reported citing local radio station Capital FM.
The others were the two pilots -- Luke Oyugi and Nancy Gituanja -- and two of the ministers' bodyguards -- Inspector Joshua Tonkei and Sergeant Thomas Murimi.
The Kenya Red Cross said the bodies were burnt beyond recognition. The cause of the accident has not been established.
The ministers were heading to the Sunday church service in Oyugis town in western Kenya.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki termed the deaths as "a devastating loss to our country".
"On behalf of the government and the people of Kenya, I send my heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and relatives of the six Kenyans," he said.
He said Saitoti would be remembered as a hardworking and determined public servant who dedicated his time to the service of the people.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the crash brought a great loss to the east African nation.
"It is a particularly poignant and a bad coincidence that the deaths of Saitoti and Ojode have occurred on the fourth anniversary of the death of the late minister Kipklaya Kones and the late MP for Sotik Lorna Laboso who also perished in plane crashes in the same area," Odinga said.
On exactly June 10, 2008, Kones, then the minister for roads, and Laboso died in a plane crash in Rift Valley near the same area.
Saitoti, a former vice president and minister for finance and education, was one of the presidential candidates for the forthcoming general elections to be held March 2013.
He had been serving in the government after being plucked out from teaching at the University of Nairobi.
Ojode, the MP for Ndhiwa constituency, had cheated death in a helicopter crash May 11, 2009, along with with former police chief Hussein Ali and Rift valley provincial commissioner Hassan Noor.
First Published: Sunday, June 10, 2012, 14:29