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Americans killed in Kenya helicopter crash were avid travelers

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Image: Captain Mario Magonga was killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya on M
Captain Mario Magonga was killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya on March 3, 2019. -
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The Americans 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 on Monday that Asher Burke, Brandon Stapper and Kyle Forti were among those who died when the helicopter they were in crashed on Lake Turkana Central Island Sunday night.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."

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

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.Kyle Forti's friend, Ashley Pratte, remembered him as a "genuinely great person" who always tried to help other people."Kyle touched so many lives," she told NBC News, saying it was "unbelievable that he is gone."According to Brett Stapper, his brother, Brandon, was best friends with the guys on the trip. Brett said he had been in Kenya but left Friday, the same day his brother arrived in the country with his girlfriend, Gehane Ribeyre.Stapper, who described himself on Instagram as a "travel addict, book worm" and an entrepreneur, documented his arrival to Kenya in several Instagram posts.In one video, Stapper and his friends are seen riding through a safari looking at animals. Another video shows the group bonding with locals.

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 said they were all invited to Kenya by Asher Burke, who had recently purchased a place he was in the process of turning it into a helicopter tour experience for entrepreneurs. Brett 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," Brett said, describing his brother as having a passion for travel and was "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 took off from Lake Turkana Central Island just after 8:30 p.m. on Sunday when one of the aircrafts "lost contact and crashed."Brett 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, told NBC News in a statement Monday that her brother "lived more than anyone she knew."

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

The pilot, Capt. Mario Magonga, and a fourth American were also killed in the crash. Magonga was a pilot for Tropic Air Kenya, which offers helicopter services and private flights in East Africa, according to the company's website.Tropic Air Kenya called Magonga an "exceptional helicopter pilot" in a 2015 Facebook post announcing he was leaving to pursue a flying career. Authorities have not yet identified the fourth American who died and cause for the crash is still being determined.