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“We pleaded with the driver not to speed but he refused to listen and instead kept speeding”. These were the words of 56-year-old Joseph Omollo, a survivor of the ill-fated bus that flew off the road and rolled downhill at Fort Ternan on the Londiani- Muhoroni road at dawn — and when it finally landed in a ditch, 300 metres down the road, 49 lay dead.
The death toll in the 50-seater bus accident had by last evening hit 57 — one died on arrival at hospital while six others succumbed to injuries as they underwent treatment at various hospitals.
Kericho county police commander James Mugera said the bus was at the time of the accident carrying 62 passengers.
Christened Home Boyz and owned by Western Express Sacco the bus was destined for Kakamega from Nairobi.
The very few lucky ones like Omollo, who survived the horror dawn plunge, were rushed to Kericho Teaching and Referral Hospital, Fort Tenan and Muhoroni Sub-County hospitals for treatment.
Omollo, a civil servant had applied for his annual leave and was headed to his Chango village in Vihiga constituency in Vihiga county to spend time with family.
At the crack of dawn beckoned as they neared home after a long night travel from the city, so did the eagerness to meet his wife and children after two months stay away in the city rise.
But this was shattered by the terrified screams and cries of anguish from fellow passengers as the bus suddenly veered off the road smashed the guardrails before rolling downhill.
Omollo is overwhelmed as he explains his luck and the chance to meet his family, albeit in pain and crutches having suffered broken limb and bruises to the face.
Yesterday, with tears rolling down his cheeks, Omollo recounted his unlikely escape from the jaws of death and thanked God for saving his life.
He blamed the tragedy on the “rogue driver” who ignored passengers’ pleas not to speed.
“Immediately we boarded the bus, the driver started speeding. The passengers complained but the driver ignored us,” he said.
He said concerned passengers resolved to alert the police, manning the highway at night on the driver’s conduct, but came across none.
“Surprisingly, from Naivasha up to the spot where we had the accident, we did not meet even one traffic police officer or any roadblock. We had hoped that we would pass our apprehension to them but there were none,” he said.
He described the driver as an elderly, arrogant and abusive man.
“We made noise but he told us to alight or leave him alone since he knew what he was doing”.
Around 5am, Omollo says he noticed the vehicle, which was descending on a steep slope zigzagging as the driver lost control with passengers screaming.
“We screamed as the driver lost control of the bus and then I heard a bang… I don’t know what happened next, but I woke up to find myself in the hospital in pain,” he said.
Another survivor, Susan Mise, said the bus was overloaded forcing some of the passengers to sit on crates that had been turned into makeshift seats.
“We were forced to sit on the crates because the bus was full. We had no option because we had an emergency to attend to in the village,” she said.
Mugare said 49 passengers died on the spot with 12 being rushed to Kericho County Referral and Muhoroni sub-county hospitals.
He said the bus that has a capacity for 50 passengers was at the time of the accident carrying 62.
At the scene of the accident, shoes, bags, clothes and empty crates were strewn all over.
Hundreds of motorists and their passengers passing along the route stopped by to gaze in horror and silence, shaking their heads in disbelief with others reciting prayers.
Five critically injured passengers were later transferred to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital.
Speaking to People Daily, Kisumu county Health executive Dr Rose Obara, said the five were admitted to the intensive care unit.
Kericho County Health Services chief officer Dr Edward Ekwam said 52 bodies had already been moved to the hospital mortuary as at yesterday noon, adding that 29 of the victims were men, 14 women and nine children.
He revealed that 16 passengers were rushed to Fort Tenan sub-county hospital where they were given first aid before 14 were referred to the Kericho County Referral Hospital.
Dr Ekwam said an information desk manned by Kenya Red Cross staff, police and medics has been established at the county referral hospital to assist affected families.
Meanwhile, police had a hectic time trying to control hundreds of relatives and members of the public who milled around the hospital’s mortuary as the bodies of the victims were off-loaded.
At the Kericho country referral hospital mortuary, a sombre mood engulfed the facility as relatives struggled to identify the bodies of the victims.
Joseph Mbaja, a brother of the bus conductor, said his phone was switched off and could not locate him even after visiting the morgue.
He said they last spoke with his brother on Tuesday at 8pm, moments before they departed for Kisumu.