19 perish as bus plunges into river

Witnesses say the driver lost control of the vehicle as he avoided to ram an oncoming lorry on Narok -Mai Mahiu road

Nineteen passengers died and four others were seriously injured when a bus they were travelling in plunged into Siyiapei River on the Narok-Mai Mahiu road.

Most died on impact while others drowned in the swollen river. At least 43 escaped with minor injuries in the 63 capacity bus. Four sustained multiple fractures, head and other serious injuries.

They were taken to Narok County Referral Hospital for first aid before being transferred to Kenyatta National Hospital. The driver of the bus, belonging to Daima Connection Sacco, who also died on the spot, reportedly lost control of the vehicle as he tried to avoid hitting a lorry belonging to a road construction company.

Witnesses said the lorry which was carrying ballast to a construction site across the highway, suddenly entered the highway. “The bus driver was trying to avoid hitting the lorry which had emerged from the quarry and was already on the highway,” said Jackson Sempele, a resident of Siyiapei, 6 kilometres from Narok town.

He said the bus, which was descending towards the bridge, was speeding. The driver veered off the road to avoid hitting the lorry. The bus was travelling from Kendu Bay in Homa Bay to Nairobi.

According to police, it was carrying 60 passengers. Survivors said it left Kendu Bay before midday and was set to arrive in the city before 7pm. They said except for a tyre burst in Bomet area, they had a good journey, adding that the driver was conversant with the road. “He had driven on it for more than five years.

It was an unavoidable accident,” said Lilian Akinyi, 24, who emerged unhurt adding that she was set to travel to Mombasa today after spending a night in her aunt’s house in Nairobi’s Makongeni estate. She said the vehicle stopped briefly in Narok town for a tyre change.

The bodies of the victims were taken to the County Referral Hospital Mortuary. Yesterday, Narok County Commissioner George Natembeya said the accident could have been avoided if the bus was not speeding. “From preliminary findings, it was speeding.

If it had been travelling at the stipulated speed, the driver would have seen the lorry and safely applied brakes,” he said. He also said because of the rains, the road might have been slippery, making braking difficult. He directed the construction company to ensure lorry and heavy machinery drivers observe traffic rules, saying it should deploy controllers to guide drivers.

“It should place its staff to assist in ensuring lorries safely cross to and from the other side of the road where it is constructing a road. It should also erect visible signs to warn road users of moving lorries and heavy machinery,” said Natembeya.

Some survivors were treated for soft tissue and other injuries at the referral hospital and discharged. “Most of them sustained minor injuries to warrant attention and discharge,” said Carey Otulo, the medical superintendent.

The busy highway that links Nairobi with western Kenya, was blocked for more than five hours as police, Kenya Red Cross officials and the public worked in tandem to retrieve the bodies that were trapped in the mangled wreckage and to rescue the injured.

Machinery belonging to the construction company was used in retrieving the bus wreckage from the river that recently burst its banks. The exercise was severely hampered by heavy rain.

The wreckage was towed to the local police station. Natembeya said police had launched further investigations into the cause of the accident and asked eyewitnesses to assist.

John Bolo, a cousin to one of those who perished said they were traveling to Nairobi from Migori to buy fishing gear and seal a deal for fish supply in the city. “We were going to buy nets and hooks.

We were planning to go commercial after securing fish market in Nairobi,” said Bolo who added that he had already informed his relatives back home.

Governor Samuel Tunai sent messages of condolence to families, relatives and friends of the deceased, and called for through investigations into the cause of the accident.

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