The Kenya Diaspora community in California is yet to come to terms with the mysterious death of college freshman Griffin “Babu” Gutwa who died aboard a flight as he was returning to Minnesota for winter break from Southern California, where he was attending the University of San Diego.
Griffin “Babu” Gutwa, just 18 years old, called his parents before the Dec. 22 flight from California to Minnesota and said he was looking forward to returning home to Minneapolis-St. Paul from the University of San Diego, where he was studying to become a physician, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
“He had just finished his exams,” Gutwa’s father, Gideon, told the newspaper. “He was excited to come home.”
But the planned holiday reunion took an unexpected, tragic turn after the aspiring doctor had a drink of warm water on the flight and leaned his head against a window before falling asleep, other passengers told the newspaper.
Gutwa’s breathing suddenly changed, prompting a passenger seated next to him to ask for a flight attendant. A medical professional began CPR on the teen as the Delta flight changed course for an emergency landing in Sioux Falls, where paramedics met the plane at the airport but could not revive Gutwa. A cause of death remains under investigation by the Sioux Falls medical examiner, according to the newspaper.
“I thought I was dreaming,” Gideon Gutwa told the newspaper about learning of his son’s death. “I could not believe it. He was very healthy. He had just been here for Thanksgiving. We were expecting him to arrive safe.”
Gutwa went “berserk” after being informed of his son’s death, according to his friend, Nyachae Oudimu.
Griffin Gutwa was remembered as an “intelligent 18-year-old who always spoke wise and put his loved ones first,” according to an online fundraising campaign set up in his memory.
“He was the most kind-hearted person you’d ever meet and he brought joy to everyone around him,” the website reads. “Whatever obstacles came his way, he was able to overcome them with ease and with all faith in the Lord. He was a hard worker who did his all to better the life of his family.”
Funeral services for Gutwa are scheduled from 3-6 p.m. Jan. 7 at Southview Seventh-day Adventist Church, 5750 Wentworth Av. S., Minneapolis.