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Boat tragedy: Siaya widow camps at river bank with infant   

Wednesday May 20 2020
KIN

Relatives of five people who drowned in River Nzoia prepare a meal at the river bank on May 17, 2020. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By DICKENS WASONGA

A 25-year-old woman has been camping on the bank of River Nzoia with her three-week-old infant for the last five nights.

Ms Marceline Achieng’s husband is among the five people who drowned at Sango Bridge on Saturday.

According to Luo traditions, Ms Achieng’ cannot go back home until her husband’s body is recovered from River Nzoia.

She is among family members of the five victims of River Nzoia boat tragedy who have camped at the river bank as the search for the bodies continues.

Although Luo traditions require that the first body to be spotted be left in the water until the others are also recovered, Nation has since established that two bodies that were retrieved on Monday and Tuesday will be buried immediately because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 FOUR DIVERS

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Four divers from Bomet County on Monday joined the search operation being undertaken by a team of 27.

On Monday, Kennedy Odhiambo’s body was recovered. His widow Maureen Oginga, who had also been camping at the river bank, was allowed to leave.  

“We rushed to the scene after word reached the village that some riders had drowned in River Nzoia. I had no idea that my husband was among them and I am yet to yet to accept that he is no more,” said Ms Oginga.  The body was spotted floating in the river at Simur area in Ugenya by sand harvesters.

Ms Achieng and her baby will continue to brave cold nights by the river bank until the body of her husband Daddy Ogidi, 24, is retrieved.  

 SAD NEWS

Her other three children aged between 10 and three have been left with a relative.

“I received the sad news from my neighbours two hours after the boat capsized. I rushed to the scene where I confirmed that my husband was among those who were missing,” she said.

“He was the family’s sole breadwinner, I don't have a job and I have no idea how I will take care of my four children,” she added.

Mr Vitalis Opiyo is also grieving the loss of his step son.

He says that in line with the Luo tradition, families of boat victims are required to keep vigil at the point where the tragedy occurred until the bodies are retrieved.

“Families who are yet to get the body of kin retrieved will have to continue to camp here until they are spotted,” he said.

Mr Opiyo told Nation that ordinarily, the first body to be spotted would be tied with a rope and left in the water until all the others are retrieved.

SPEED BOAT

“They would have waited for the retrieval of the rest of the bodies before burial plans could begin, but is not be possible because of Covid-19,” he said.

The second body of the Nzoia River boat tragedy that claimed five young lives was retrieved on Tuesday.

Mr Ben Kanga, the owner of the speed boat, was arrested in Sio Port on Monday for operating without a licence.  

Siaya County Police commander Francis Kooli said that the suspect, who is being held at Ugunja Police Station, will be arraigned once investigations are complete.

The second body of Mr George Oduor Okumu, 34, was spotted by members of the public while floating in the river at Sigiri Bridge in Bunyala in Busia County.

His widow Irene Odhiambo said the family was yet to agree on burial arrangements. The mother of three appealed to Siaya County government to help the family offset the burial costs.

SEARCH CALLED OFF

Elders say the search for the three other bodies will be called off after seven days. A mock burial will be conducted at the river bank in line with tradition if the bodies are not retrieved. 

Mr Owino Nyady, a member of the Luo Council of Elders said traditionally, the retrieved bodies should have been buried at the river banks since it is a taboo to take them home.

The swollen river has made the search operation difficult.

On Sunday, youths managed to retrieve the ill-fated boat at Kalkada area. Its engine is yet to be recovered. The five who perished in the boat tragedy were boda boda operators.

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