Two Fijians have been confirmed dead after an air crash north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on Tuesday afternoon (Kenya Time).
The confirmation came late last night and was reported by Kenyan newspaper The Standard.
Dead are Pastor Sakaraia Tamani Mataka, 55, and his son, Paula Tekei Mataka, 15, who were on their way from Kitale to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, before heading to Fiji when the plane crashed.
The wreckage of the Fly-SAX-managed Cessna C208 aircraft (registration number 5Y-CAC) was located in the Aberdares Range, a 160km long mountain range north of Nairobi yesterday morning.
The aircraft was said to be “reasonably” damaged.
The wreck was found by the aerial search team at Elephant Point, about 11,000 feet above sea level.
The light aircraft with a maximum of eight passengers and two crew members was en route to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi from Kitale (a distance of 381.9km) at 4.05pm (Kenya Time) on Tuesday.
Fiji is approximately nine hours ahead of Kenya.
The plane was about 60 kilometres from its destination when the two female pilots last contacted the control tower at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
The control tower reported the aircraft missing after losing contact with the aircraft at about 5.20pm.
It is believed the aircraft flew into a bad storm.
Pastor Mataka’s elder brother, Alipate Matadigo, 60, speaking from Labasa, told the Fiji Sun yesterday that his brother and nephew were expected to arrive in Fiji today for a month-long visit.
“I earlier harvested their yaqona and sent them their plane fare and they were on their way to visit me,” he said.
“It was a personal trip and not a church trip. They planned to come and spend time on their yaqona plantation at Bagasau and Nadogo in Macuata.
“I already bought four cane knives while waiting for them, so we could go clean up their plantation.”
Pastor Mataka and his family had already spent 10 years in Kenya on missionary work.
“His contract was to expire this December.”
Mr Matadigo said the senior pastor of Christian Mission Fellowship Labasa branch, Vili Gauna, visited him on Tuesday to relay the news of the crash in Kenya.
“I was told that signals were detected from the scene of the crash,” he said.
Pastor Mataka and his family last visited Fiji in 2015.
He is from Udu Point in Vanua Levu.
The President and Founder of CMFI, Pastor Suliasi Kurulo, in a statement said that Pastor Mataka was a faithful and committed servant of the Lord.
A statement released by East African Safari Air Express Limited shortly after the plane went missing stated that the aircraft had a capacity of 12 passengers.
It had departed from Kitale destined for Nairobi at 4.05pm with eight passengers on board and two crew members.
Search and rescue teams were immediately mobilised by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, Aircraft Accident Investigation Department and Kenya Wildlife Service.
Relatives and next of kin were contacted and convened at a hotel where they were given updates as news was received.
Daily Nation reported that search and rescue teams were strategising on how to land to conduct rescue operations.
The deaths were confirmed by several Kenyan media outlets including The Standard newspaper, The Nation, Capital FM Kenya and Daily Nation last night.