Identity of dead Kenya Airways stowaway disputed

By Morris Kiruga

Posted on Thursday, 14 November 2019 15:38
Kenya Airways planes are seen parked at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport near Nairobi, Kenya November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

The identity of a dead stowaway who fell off a Kenya Airways flight to London in June has become the subject of a controversy, after the Kenyan government refuted claims made by a Sky News investigation.

The unidentified stowaway fell off the passenger plane and onto a garden in south London on June 30th. A Sky News investigation, published on Monday, identified the stowaway as Paul Manyasi, a 29-year-old cleaner it said was seconded to Nairobi’s main airport.

  • In the 15minute documentary, the journalists followed a trail that begun with a tip by a cab driver.
  • Both a girlfriend and Manyasi’s parents identified a mock-up of the stowaway and photographs of his possessions as Manyasi’s.
  • It also identified his employer as Colnet Limited, a company contracted to provide cleaning services at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Both Kenya’s airports authority and the company have denied the claim. In a statement, the authority said that the name does not appear on any of their records.

“The identity of the stowaway is an open and active investigation,” the authority added.

The cleaning company’s Managing Partner, Chege Kariuki, said that “all Colnet employees are accounted for without failure at the end of every shift…we don’t have, and have never had Paul Manyasi as an employee”.

The stowaway’s identity became even murkier on Wednesday after the family in the Sky News investigation, denied that he could have been their son.

“I believe my son is alive,” the father said, before adding that someone told him a week ago that his son was in a Nairobi prison. He also said that he had told the journalists that the stowaway was not his son.

  • The family also said their son’s name was Cedrick Shivanji/Shivonje and not Paul Manyasi, with another son saying that the Sky TV report also misidentified his parents’ second names.

  • Prison officials denied having anyone by the name Cedrick Shinvonje in Nairobi, making it even harder to determine the stowaway’s true identity.

Why it matters

The controversy comes at a time when Kenya’s aviation sector is in crisis, with Silverstone Air suspending its flights as of 12 November.

The East African country’s civil aviation authority suspended the airline’s Dash 8 fleet after two successive incidents in October.

  • The authority also suspended the licenses of two other airlines, Safe Air Company and Adventure Loft on 12 November.
  • In November, a KQ flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi was forced to turn back after what multiple reports of a stowaway on board. According to the Aviation Herald, “the crew was informed a maintenance engineer should have been left in Johannesburg”.
  • Kenya Airways said the turn back was “due to operational reasons.”

With these and more incidents, Kenya’s aviation regulators had been silent on the June stowaway’s identity until the Sky News investigation. The renewed interest will add pressure on the airport’s operator and the country’s security agencies to identify him, and to answer important questions.

  • Beyond identity, tracing the stowaway’s timeline will be a study in security loopholes at the JKIA, which was granted category 1 status by the FAA in 2017.


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