Date: 13 May 2017 13:21
Details of the Saturday morning accident that claimed at least 19 lives at Soysambu on the Nakuru-Nairobi highway reveal that problems started early in the journey.
The driver of the 52-seater FlashLink bus, operating under the Super Highway Sacco, had been randomly picked at Machakos Bus Station following a heated disagreement among a group of drivers on who was to take the journey, survivors said.
The journey had been delayed for more than an hour following the argument over the driver.
The accident, which occurred in Mbaruk, Gilgil sub-county, involved three vehicles - the ill-fated bus and two trucks.
Eighteen people died on the spot while another person succumbed to his injuries at St Mary’s Mission Hospital while 14 passengers were injured, seven of them critically.
"One person out of the 14 admitted died but our doctors managed to rescue the rest who are currently in stable condition," Mr Shadrack Musau, the nurse in charge at St Mary’s Mission Hospital, said.
According to survivors who spoke to Sunday Nation, the driver had been driving dangerously and appeared unfamiliar with the road.
One of the survivors, Mr Robert Otieno, said the journey had been a mess right from the time they boarded the bus, which plies the Githurai 44 route in Nairobi.
Some of the passengers had been duped and even forced to board the bus, which left Nairobi at 11pm.
Those who spoke to Sunday Nation said they had obtained tickets for different buses only to be led to the ill-fated one.
Sunday Nation learnt from the survivors that some of the passengers had threatened to disembark when the drivers started arguing.
"We had threatened to disembark from the bus before the bus drivers picked a random person at the station to drive us to Busia," Mr Otieno said.
He said travellers were stranded and had no option as the fares on that route had been hiked.
The operators of the FlashLink bus had taken advantage of the hike to get more passengers by lowering prices.
Those travelling in the bus were being charged Sh800 to Busia, Sh200 lower than what other buses were charging.
Survivors said the driver and his conductor were engaged in a heated argument throughout the journey until the accident happened.
Speaking to Nation at St Mary’s Mission Hospital, Mr Otieno, who suffered minor head injuries, said the driver was speeding and the accident occurred about three hours into the journey, shortly after 2am.
According to Mr Otieno, who narrowly escaped death alongside 33 others, the driver seemed unfamiliar with the road as he did not slow down at bumps.
Another survivor, Ms Alectina Auma, who was on her way to the burial of a relative in Uganda, said she asked the driver to go slower but he ignored her pleas.
Ms Auma said all the passengers who were seated behind her went quiet after the accident.
"I just saw the truck hit our bus slightly. We all screamed but after a few seconds I looked behind and saw every one was still," she recounted.
Among the survivors were five members of one family, one of them Ms Auma.
Two of them sustained minor injuries but were in a stable condition.
Nakuru police commander Hassan Barua said the bus had tried to overtake a truck before it collided with an oncoming truck causing the crash.
Rift Valley traffic enforcement officer Zero Arome led the rescue operation assisted by the Kenya Red Cross team from the South Rift region.
The driver of the bus and his conductor took off after the incident.
Mr Isaac Guruacha, the co-driver of one of the trucks, said he saw the bus abruptly emerge from its lane trying to overtake before they collided.
"The driver of the bus tried to return to his lane after seeing our truck but it was too late as we hit the backside of the bus that was still on our lane," Mr Guruacha said.
He said the driver of the bus lost control and further collided with another truck.
Mr Barua said police have launched investigations to establish why the bus was ferrying passengers to the countryside without authorisation.
President Uhuru Kenyatta mourned the 19 and directed a probe into the cause of the accident as he called on concerned agencies to intensify road safety measures.
The ODM party also sent a message of condolences to the bereaved families.