At 25, Ms Eunice Maguke, a mother of one, was on top of the world.
Then her life was cut short in the most gruesome manner as police chased a sand-laden lorry.
Ms Maguke’s death has triggered a debate over high-speed police pursuits and whether the police have a policy on chases — a tricky balance between law enforcement and public safety.
Ms Maguke is not a lone statistic.
In December 2017, a vehicle fleeing a National Transport and Safety Authority patrol car caused an accident at Sachang’wan, on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway, leading to the death of 16 people. Several others were injured in the crash.
On August, 21, 2018 a lorry driver ferrying charcoal and fleeing from police caused multiple accidents involving five vehicles and injured two pedestrians on Limuru Road.
While the Traffic Act criminalises reckless driving and offers a maximum of 10 years in jail for any person who causes death by driving recklessly, there seems to be no police policy on how to carry out high-speed chases.
Studies in the US have led to calls for a balance between high-speed chases and the rule of law after it emerged that “35 to 40 per cent of all chases end in accidents, about 20 per cent in injury and one per cent in death,” according to Geoffrey Alpert, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina who studied the issue in the late 1990s.
In some countries, police do not chase cars for traffic offences, thus limiting such chases to violent felonies and sparing the lives of innocent victims.
While police arrested the driver of the lorry that caused Ms Maguke’s death, they are still mum about the appropriateness of police chases and the circumstances that surround them.
At the time of her death, Ms Maguke was six-months pregnant and was preparing to open her grocery shop in Kabachi in Nakuru town.
According to eyewitnesses, Ms Maguke was arranging her groceries when the lorry rammed into her kiosk, killing her instantly.
“I saw a lorry speeding towards our kiosks and within seconds screams filled the air and the next minute I saw Ms Maguke’s body. The driver tried to escape but boda boda riders intercepted him and beat him up. He was rushed to a local hospital,” Ms Gladys Nekesa, who owns an adjacent kiosk, told the Nation.
There was further drama at the scene when the owner of the lorry arrived and attempted to bar journalists from investigating the grisly accident.
A number of eyewitnesses interviewed by the Nation said they saw a police vehicle chasing the lorry before it rammed into the grocery shop, but the police allegedly turned back after the accident — rather than check on the victims.
“I saw the police vehicle make a U-turn after they realised the lorry had been involved in an accident. It is not clear where the lorry was heading with the construction material,” said a resident who sought anonymity.
Police have not explained why they were pursuing the lorry, whether the driver had committed a traffic offence, and why they did not arrest the owner when he arrived at the scene of the accident. Also, police have not explained why the vehicle that was pursuing the lorry took off after the incident.
Even more callous is that Ms Maguke’s body stayed at the scene of the accident for 30 minutes before the police arrived and took it to the Nakuru War Memorial Hospital mortuary.
Although family members, led by Ms Maguke’s brother James Ouko Oginga, reported the matter to the Nakuru Police Station, police bosses could not confirm or deny being aware of the matter.
Nakuru OCPD Samuel Obara had at first told the Nation that he was away from the station and directed us to his deputy Daniel Kitavi, who is not allowed to talk to reporters.
County Police Commander Stephen Matu also told the Nation he was away from the station attending a seminar.