Noah Cheploen @Cheploennoah
The mention of Salgaa-Sachang’wan evokes fear; pain and anger because of the many lives that have been lost through deadly road accidents particularly considering that more than 25 people have perished there in the last four days alone.
It has been a terrifying week for motorists and travellers who use this 14-kilometre stretch to reach their destinations in Western parts of the country and neighbouring East African countries such as Uganda and Rwanda.
On December 9, the life of prominent Kalenjin singer Weldon Cheruiyot aka Keneny was snuffed out alongside his six other colleagues when a vehicle they were travelling in collided head on with an oncoming truck at Kamara area.
They all died on the spot. And, even before the dust settled, 16 people were killed on the spot after a truck hit 13 vehicles at Sachangwan including a bus heading to Kampala, Uganda. The tragic incident came as Kenyans celebrated Jamhuri Day on Tuesday. But, it is not the first time such ugly incidents are being reported.
In fact, for many Kenyans, the road is like a death trap because of the numerous fatal accidents reported over the years. High ranking government officials led by Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, and Infrastructure Principal Secretary John Mosonik toured the area on a fact-finding mission as Kenyans demanded action.
Kinyanjui, who was the chairman of National Transport Authority (NTSA) before he was elected in August, promised to bring all stakeholders together with a view to getting a long-lasting solution.
Nakuru County Police Commander Hassan Barua in his statement confirmed to the People Daily that 13 people died on the spot while more than 30 others suffered serious injuries and are admitted to various hospitals in Nakuru Town. Tuesday’s incident happened less than two kilometres from the spot where more than 100 people perished after a fuel tanker caught fire in 2009.
A mass grave stands beside the road providing a permanent reminder of the tragedy. The 14- kilometre stretch is on a steep hill that runs from Mau Summit up to Salgaa and trailers have been accused of flouting lane rules and engaging free wheels to save fuel, which is in turn siphoned off at Salgaa.
But according to witnesses, Tuesday’s accident happened when a driver of a truck that was being chased by NTSA officials lost control of the vehicle at a sharp bend and smashed several vehicles.
“I was at home when I saw a green branded car chase after the trailer. On approaching the bend, the driver of the trailer lost control and started crashing into oncoming traffic knocking several cars off the road,” said James Maina, a resident.
The trailer first crashed into a 62-seater bus belonging to Modern Coast Buses headed to Kampala from Nairobi and went ahead to crash six Public Service Vehicles (PSVs), two trailers, four personal cars and a double cabin pickup. The smell of blood filled the air as rescuers struggled to retrieve bodies from the different vehicles some that had been trapped under the wheels.
The rescuers had to dismember some of the vehicles while several others remained trapped under the trailer for hours until powerful breakdowns arrived. Hassan Mohammed, a survivor was driving his car alongside his three other relatives. They spotted the trailer from a distance and stopped thinking that the trailer would stop before reaching them.
“I thought the trailer would stop after crashing into some cars that were ahead of me. On board, I had my brothers with whom we were travelling to Kitale. To our shock, the trailer crashed all the vehicles in front of ours, and several others behind mine,” said Mohammed.
His younger brother was however, admitted at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital in critical condition while the rest escaped with minor injuries. While receiving treatment at the same hospital, Vincent Akoth narrated how all 12 people on board a Great Rift Shuttle escaped death by a whisker after they rolled several times on the road following the impact.
“I was seated next to the driver and saw the trailer clear other cars ahead of us one by one. We saw death with our own eyes. The trailer luckily knocked us by the side and pushed us off road,” he said.