Yesterday’s crash that left 56 people dead brought back a familiar tale of pain, negligence and impunity on Kenyan roads. Even the shell of the bus that was shredded by the impact of the crash and that lay in an open field strewn with luggage, twisted metal and bodies had a sense of deja vu.
The reactions too, had a ring of familiarity: Official condolences, promises of stern action, and silence. Dozens of kilometres away, survivors of the dawn accident that occurred at Tunnel on the Muhoroni-Londiani highway recounted their ordeal. Still in shock, many spoke of their pleas to the bus driver to slow down on a journey that appeared to have been doomed from the start. Others sank to their knees in prayer, thankful to have survived through a last-minute change of travel plans. Friends and relatives searched frantically for their loved ones at the accident scene, hospitals and morgues.
For the rest of the nation, life moved on, with leaders sending the now familiar messages of condolences and authorities repeating the even more familiar pledge to take action against anyone found culpable. Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) Regional Director Isaiah Onsongo blamed the accident on the driver’s failure to observe road signs. The bus named ‘Home Boyz’ is owned by Western Cross Express Company Ltd and was heading to Kakamega from Nairobi.
Police reports indicate the 62-seater bus was carrying 71 passengers. Police, first responders and residents who rushed to the scene of the crash said they found trapped passengers screaming inside the mangled wreck. Lost control Kericho County Police Commander James Mugera said the accident could have occurred when the driver lost control of the vehicle. The bus is said to have hit metal guardrails that lined the highway before rolling several times down a slope. Those who died on the spot were 31 men, 12 women and seven children. Others died in hosital. “The accident involved a passenger vehicle that was heading to Western (region) from Nairobi. According to preliminary findings, the driver lost control and drove into a ditch, killing 50 people on the spot,” said Mr Mugera.
For hours, mutilated bodies lay in pools of blood at the crash scene. Residents said the accident was the worst they had seen in the area. Police joined hands with first responders to tear through the wreckage and retrieve bodies that were stuck between seats. An earth-mover was also brought in to help remove the wreckage. The body of a two-year-old boy was found trapped underneath the bus. Personal belongings including travel bags, utensils, crates of soft drinks, a flask and food items were strewn at the scene of accident, some soaked in blood. Wilson Rop, among first to arrive at the scene, said he heard a loud bang at around 5am, and people screaming. He said by the time he reached the scene, most of the passengers were already dead. He then joined other responders in searching for survivors among the bodies. “I found two children aged between three and four, but one died while getting first aid. I watched him breathe his last,” said Mr Rop. Residents said the area is a notorious black spot. “We have witnessed fatal accidents on this road almost daily, but the most notorious place is the Tunnel area” said Catherine Chepkurui.