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San Diegans among tourists killed in Kenya helicopter crash

SAN DIEGO -- Three of the four American tourists killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya were from San Diego County, a family member and an official confirmed Monday.

A helicopter with four Americans and a Kenyan pilot crashed in the Central Island National Park in Lake Turkana at 8:35 p.m. Sunday. A rescue team arrived at the crash site three hours later and did not find any survivors.

Brandon Stapper (Credit: Brett Stapper)

Brett Stapper told FOX 5 his brother Brandon Howe Stapper died in the crash.

"While we are devastated with the news that my brother passed away last night in a tragic accident, we have peace of mind knowing that he died doing what he loved — exploring the world. Brandon's life was one big adventure and his final adventure was a helicopter safari with his best friends and (wife). Nothing that Brandon did in life was ordinary so it's no surprise that he left this world in an extraordinary way. He left us way too soon but we know his final moments of life were pure joy and bliss as he watched his last sunset across Lake Turkana with a cocktail in his hand," Brett Stapper stated.

Coronado resident Dave Baker was also killed in the crash, according to Mayor Richard Bailey.

"Sad news for our community as dear friend and Coronado resident, Dave Baker, is among the four Americans that died on Sunday evening in a helicopter accident from a remote island in Lake Turkana in northwestern Kenya," Bailey wrote in a Facebook post. "Dave was an amazing family man, businessman, and adventurer. He had an infectious laugh and made friends wherever he went. Dave lived life to the fullest. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of Dave's loved ones, as we all try to make sense out of this tragic event. I will miss Dave Terribly. RIP Bakerman".

The US Embassy identified the other two Americans as Anders Asher Jesiah Burke and Kyle John Forti.

"We offer our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of all those killed in the crash. We are providing all appropriate consular assistance to the families of the American citizens," an embassy spokesperson said in a statement.

Asher's Facebook page stated he was from San Diego, but currently living in San Juan, Puerto Rico. "I know Brandon would want to be known for being a self made entrepreneur, doing that well. I think same thing for Asher," said Brett Stapper. Reached by phone, Stapper says his brother Brandon was his "best friend and more like a father,"  after their father died while they were young.

Asher had recently taken Brett Stapper and other entrepreneurs on adventures in Kenya. Stapper had posted pictures to Instagram of the trip and thanked Asher.

"I thought I’d seen Africa before but this was truly next level. We got in our three helicopters and just took off- landing in places humans haven’t been before, jumping out into the Indian Ocean, and flying over local tribes who probably thought we were aliens. Pictures don’t even come close to covering how amazing this trip was," Stapper posted.

Mario Magonga has been identified as the pilot who flew the chopper to the island. Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper reported that Magonga was also the pilot for Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto.

Authorities have ordered an investigation into the crash.

The chopper was one of two that landed on the island, Kenyan police said in an earlier statement, adding that the other aircraft "managed" to land safely.

Investigators have not yet established the cause of the crash, according to the National Police Service.

A local news outlet reported Monday that the two choppers had taken tourists to the island, which borders Ethiopia and is known for its colony of Nile crocodiles.

Air mishaps have become frequent in recent months in Kenya, a popular destination for international tourists visiting the east African nation for its vast wildlife and coastal attractions.

Five people, including two Americans tourists, were killed in February after a small passenger plane crashed in Kenya's Mukatano forest.

In July, 10 people aboard a small aircraft died after it crashed in the Aberdare forest in the mountainous region of the country.

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