At approximately 3:35 am this morning a plane crashed into an airport shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya. According to authorities on the scene it could have been much worse if not for the time the accident occurred. So far ABC NEWS is reporting that four people died in the crash. The known victims include the pilot, flight engineer, and two other crew members. Two guards at the plaza were also injured.
The plane was a white Fokker 50 propeller plane. The plane was flying to Somalia when it crashed into the shopping area. The force of the impact ripped the plane in two with the front half of the plane buried in the building, and the back half sticking out into the parking area.
The Fokker 50 is a cargo plane and, in this case, was transporting a recreational drug called khat. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes khat as “a stimulant drug derived from a shrub (Catha edulis) that is native to East Africa and southern Arabia.” It is normally chewed or held in the mouth like chewing tobacco. The drug itself produces euphoria and relaxation; however it is banned in the United States because it is usually mixed with the added chemical narcotic cathinone.
Khat is legal in many African countries and there are daily flights from Nairobi taking the drugs to Somalia. According to the Kenyan Air Authority (KAA), the plane took off in the early morning hours from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and crashed just minutes later. There were no reports of unusual or bad weather patterns that may have thrown the plane off course.
Jomo Kenyatta is one of the busiest airports in the eastern part of Africa. The KAA does not have any evidence indicating that the pilot or anyone else on the plane used khat prior to takeoff. As of now it is a new and developing investigation with all possibilities being examined.