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Americans killed in Kenya helicopter crash were avid travelers

Officials said the helicopter "lost control and crashed" shortly after leaving Lake Turkana Central Island on Sunday night.

The American tourists killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya were avid travelers and often documented their trips on their social media profiles, including sharing a number of videos and photos from their visit to Africa.

The U.S. Embassy confirmed that Asher Burke, Brandon Stapper, Kyle Forti and David Baker were among those who died when their helicopter crashed on Lake Turkana Central Island on Sunday night.

Kyle Forti's mother, Ann Forti, told NBC News that her son loved to travel and took an impromptu trip to Kenya after an invite from Burke. The two have known each other since they were teenagers, she said.

"He had the greatest soul and he had the greatest love for humanity," Ann Forti said during a phone interview Monday. "This wasn't an ordinary man."

Image: Brandon Stapper was killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya on March 3, 2019.
Brandon Stapper was killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya on March 3, 2019.via LinkedIn

Kyle Forti, who was living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was the oldest of eight siblings and was the co-founder and partner of a political consulting company called D/CO. He and his wife, Hope, were expecting their second child, his mother said.

His friend, Ashley Pratte, remembered him as a "genuinely great person" who always tried to help other people.

"Kyle touched so many lives," she said, adding it was "unbelievable that he is gone."

According to Brett Stapper, his brother, Brandon, was best friends with the men on the trip. Brett Stapper said he had been in Kenya but left Friday, the same day his brother arrived in the country with his wife, Gehane Ribeyre.

Brandon Stapper, who described himself on Instagram as a "travel addict, book worm" and an entrepreneur, documented his arrival in Kenya in several Instagram posts.

In one video, he and his friends are seen riding through a safari looking at animals. Another video shows the group bonding with locals.

Image: Kyle Forti was killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya on March 3, 2019.
Kyle Forti was killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya on March 3, 2019.Facebook

Brett Stapper said they were all invited to Kenya by Burke, who had recently purchased a place from where he planned to start offering helicopter tours for entrepreneurs.

Brett Stapper said his brother and friends had just finished watching the sunset on Lake Turkana Central Island when their helicopter crashed after encountering windy weather.

"Brandon was very, very passionate. Anything he did, he tried to go at it at the highest level," he said, describing his brother as having a passion for travel and being "addicted to seeing and exploring the world.”

"He was amazing. Such a good human. He was just loved by everyone in San Diego," he said.

According to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, two helicopters had taken off from Lake Turkana Central Island just after 8:30 p.m. Sunday when one of them "lost contact and crashed."

Brett Stapper said Ribeyre, as well as Burke's girlfriend, Emeri Callahan, were among those in the second helicopter, which arrived safely at Lobolo Camp in the northwest town of Lodwar.

Burke and Callahan had been in Kenya since December, according to Instagram posts. Burke's last post was a Valentine's Day message to Callahan on Feb. 15.

"No matter the day or the place — you're always the ultimate valentine," he wrote as the pair smiled in front of a small plane in Lake Turkana.

His sister, Jarah Burke, said in a statement Monday that her brother "lived more than anyone she knew."

Image: Captain Mario Magonga was killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya on March 3, 2019.
Captain Mario Magonga was killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya on March 3, 2019.Tropic Air Kenya

Richard Bailey, the mayor of Coronado, a city in California, remembered Baker as an "amazing family man, businessman and adventurer."

"He had an infectious laugh and made friends wherever he went," Bailey wrote in a Facebook post on Monday. "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."

The pilot, Capt. Mario Magonga, was also killed in the crash, officials said. Magonga was a pilot for KIDL, a helicopter company.

The cause of the crash is still being determined.

CORRECTION: (March 7, 2019 9:58 a.m.): An earlier version of this story misstated the relationship between one of the victims of the crash, Brandon Stapper, and Gehane Ribeyre. They were married; she was not his girlfriend.