South African divers join search for ferry tragedy victims

Monday October 07 2019

South African divers, who will assist in the retrieval of two bodies from the Indian Ocean, are briefed about the mission at Mbaraki wharf on October 7, 2019. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Eight divers from South Africa have joined the Kenya Navy to retrieve bodies of a woman and her four-year-old daughter, who drowned in the Indian Ocean last week.

The family of Mariam Kighenda and her daughter Amanda Mutheu contracted five divers from SubSeas Services, a commercial diving company operating in South Africa. The government brought in three others from South Africa.

Kighenda and her daughter drowned on September 29 along the Likoni channel after their car slipped off the ferry.

Last week, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho donated Sh2 million to the family towards helping hire professional divers to help in retrieving the bodies.

On Monday, the team that is led by the Kenya Navy dived into the Indian Ocean waters at the Likoni Channel at 1pm.



In the past one week, weather challenges have hampered the operation after heavy rains pounded the region. Visibility was also cited as a major challenge along the channel.

An unknown number of Indian Naval forces also volunteered to help their Kenyan counterparts. The operation was on Monday boosted after the government procured high-tech equipment.

Kenya Ferry Services chairman Dan Mwazo told the press on Monday that the government had procured more equipment that will assist the new team in the retrieval mission.

The equipment includes an advanced system of remote operated cameras with high resolution to ease visibility.

Head of the rescue team, Col Lawrence Gituma, said in a press release on Sunday that the cameras would speed up the retrieval of bodies. “The ones we have are good, but we are getting more that are advanced, which will give us a better resolution,” he said.


He added that the equipment was already on the ground and will be applied in the ongoing operations. “Because of the safety and strategy levels, the process will be more reliant on equipment,” Col Gituma said.

The government said the safety of the divers remains a major challenge because of the depth of the waters. They were working to ensure that the divers were safe during the operation in some of the deepest parts of the Indian Ocean.

“This is a recovery operation, we’re no longer searching or rescuing, therefore safety of the divers is our main responsibility,” Col Gituma said.

Eight days after the Toyota Isis slipped off MV Harambee with two passengers on board, the family is hopeful that their loved ones will be retrieved.

However, a pathologist has cast doubts on the condition of the bodies. Dr Abdulaziz Mohammed, an anatomical pathologist at Aga Khan Hospital, says that considering the duration of the bodies inside the sea, a lot of circumstances will affect their conditions by the time of their retrieval.

He cited factors like water temperatures and predation.