Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bad start to Easter as 14 die

The wreckage of a Mombasa-bound matatu that was ferrying worshippers to Mombasa from Bungoma. It collided with a truck, killing 14 people. Photo/PHOEBE OKALL

The wreckage of a Mombasa-bound matatu that was ferrying worshippers to Mombasa from Bungoma. It collided with a truck, killing 14 people. Photo/PHOEBE OKALL 

By WALTER MENYA and JOHN KISU

Fourteen worshippers were killed on Wednesday on their way to a gospel crusade at the Coast. The group from Bungoma, was headed to the Miracle Revival Fellowship Pentecostal Church in Mariakani, Mombasa.

Their vehicle collided head-on with a truck at Katunguma Bridge between Kibwezi and Kinyambu on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway. The crusade was part of the church’s Easter celebrations.

Visiting Coast

Ms Caroline Baraza, 20, the lone survivor in the van, said she was visiting Coast Province for the first time. She sustained a fractured left leg, deep cuts on the face and back. The driver and loader of the truck also survived.

Among the dead was the church pastor who was driving the van. Police could not, however, release the names of the victims until their next of kin were informed.

At her Makindu Hospital bed where she was being treated, Ms Baraza told the Nation: “We were all elated because we were going to attend a big crusade; it was the first time most of us were visiting the Coast.”

Before leaving on Tuesday, the worshippers had received blessings from other church members back home in KCC village, Bungoma, she said. They were expected to return on Saturday. Ms Baraza said she joined the Miracle Revival Fellowship Pentecostal Church in 1999.

“We expected to arrive safely and join other people in prayers before we depart to take the good news back home,” she said. Personal belongings littered the accident scene. Among the items were seven dead chickens, fruits, vegetable and maize flour the worshippers were carrying as offering.

Truck loader Salim Dender, was also admitted to Makindu Hospital while his driver was treated and discharged. Both Salim and Ms Baraza said they could not recall details of the incident. They both regained consciousness at the hospital. Salim had deep cuts on the face and legs and also complained of chest pains.

According to Makindu police officer Sarah Duncan, the driver of the van was attempting to overtake. “The place has a history of accidents which have claimed many lives in the past,” said Ms Duncan.

Witness Musyoki Mulwa told the Nation that two accidents happened on the same spot last year. In April, a van was involved in a head-on collision with a truck, killing eight people. And last June, a female cyclist was knocked down and killed by a truck. “The road narrows here but many motorists do not see that and speed,” said Mr Mulwa.