When Mr Eric Muganzi received an unexpected call at around 3am on Sunday, being sleepy, he fumbled with his phone. At the end of the line was his cousin, sounding desperate.
“She told me that her sister had been involved in a fatal accident at Gilgil, on the Naivasha-Nakuru highway. Together with other members of the African Divine Church (ADC), they were coming from a burial ceremony,” the grief-stricken cousin said.
Mr Muganzi was at the Gilgil mortuary to identify the bodies of the church members and that of his cousin whom he last spoke with on Thursday, as she embarked on the ill-fated journey.
“She asked me to buy her a [bottle of] soda which I did after sending her money. That is the last time we spoke,” he said.
At the mortuary, he was able to identify the bodies and was making plans to ferry them from the Gilgil mortuary. “It is so congested. I am making plans to have the bodies transferred,” he added.
The five members of the church were among the people who died in a road accident involving a Nairobi bound bus and a truck headed to Nakuru town.
The bus was heading to Nairobi from Vihiga County, while the truck ferrying stones was headed to Nakuru from Nairobi.
Outside the mortuary was 29-year-old Lucy Wangui Njoroge who lost her father in the accident.
“My father was the bus driver and we last communicated with him on Saturday evening at around 8pm. He told us he was on his from Kapsabet town before inquiring whether the family had a meal,” the grieving daughter said.
He also informed them that he had bought a bunch of bananas in readiness for a family gathering scheduled for Tuesday at Limuru, Kiambu County. That was the last communication before the family received news of the accident.
“My father has been a driver since I was born … he loved his work and was quite experienced,” Ms Wangui said fighting back tears.
But it was not all gloom for the family after one of their relatives, Mr Isaac Mbugua, who was the bus conductor, escaped with minor injuries.
“I blame the truck driver for refusing to give right of way. As our driver attempted to overtake the truck, the driver accelerated, compounding the dicey situation,” he said.
But another survivor, Mr Amin Hamza, gave a different version of the story. “The bus driver was overtaking dangerously leading to the accident. The truck driver swerved towards the left in an attempt to avoid a head-on collision, but it was too late.”
Another lucky survivor was 72-year-old Absalom Gulundu who sustained a fracture on the left leg. He too said the driver was speeding.
Gilgil Sub-County Hospital acting medical superintendent Denver Kamau said 29 people were brought to the facility in the wee hours of the morning.
“We referred six patients to the Nakuru Level Five Hospital but one of them succumbed to his injuries at the casualty department,” the medic said.
Dr Kamau said 12 victims were treated and discharged. “Among the dead were eight female and four men bringing the number to 12,” he said.
Gilgil OCPD Emmanuel Opuru said the bus driver was overtaking before the accident.
Nakuru Level Five Hospital medical superintendent Joseph Mburu said four survivors were referred to the facility.
“The four have been referred to a Nairobi hospital for specialised treatment after medics helped stabilise them,” he said.
Additional Reporting by Magdalene Wanja