Emotions ran high and tears flowed freely as parents of 63 Kyanguli Mixed Secondary School students burnt to death 13 years ago recalled the incident.
They wept in silence while following the proceedings in a court where a former teacher, Mr Jackson Muindi, recounted what transpired during the fateful night of March 26, 2001, in the Machakos County school.
Mr Muindi told Mr Justice Joseph Sergon that he was awakened by students knocking on his door at around 1am informing him that the dormitory was on fire.
By the time he arrived at the scene, the hostel was engulfed in a raging fire and the roof had caved in.
TAKEN TO HOSPITAL
The teacher went to where students had gathered and assisted in the transportation of those burnt to Machakos General Hospital.
The parents have sued the government for compensation.
They say the government failed to use reasonable means to prevent the dormitory fire.
They have sued the then headmaster, Mr David Mutiso, and deputy headmaster Stephen Kasyoka, the TSC, the Board of Governors of Kyanguli Mixed Secondary and the AG.
Mr Solomon Muteti, also a former teacher in the school, said there were rumours that the smell of petrol was stronger near the dormitory section but the administration, with the help of prefects, searched without success.
He said the narrow corridor in the dormitory might have made it difficult for all the students to get out.
“One of the doors was also locked and they were struggling to get out using one door.
"The prefects had the key, but they may have misplaced it,” he explained.
There were also allegations that students whose examination results had been cancelled the previous year were the persons behind the fire.
Mr Muteti said he could not blame the principal or the deputy for the poor design of the dormitory because they were posted to the school years after the dormitory was built.
“I was also a teacher in the school between 1990 and 2007, before I was transferred to another school, but I also found the dormitory there.”
NO EXIT POINTS
The parents claim that there was failure to fit, provide and secure fire-fighting equipment for the school and also provide adequate and appropriate access, emergency and exit points in the dormitories.
The deceased were aged between 14 and 20 years and were from all four Form levels.
The Magistrate Court had earlier found the headmaster, Mr Kiilu, and his deputy, Mr Kasyoka, guilty of failing to prevent a felony.
Magistrate R.A. Mutoka, convicted the two, saying in her judgment dated January 29, 2002, that they did not use reasonable means that were at their disposal to prevent the arson.
Events that culminated in the tragic fire had started showing on March 23, 2001, when leaflets asking the students to boycott the assembly, were posted in certain places in the school compound.
The hearing continues.