The Kenyans who died in the road accident in Arusha were a part of a group of elite street racers with a thirst for speed, perhaps inspired by the Hollywood blockbuster movie, Fast and Furious.
The speed lovers, who regularly hold racing events known as drag races in various parts of the country, drive some of the fastest cars on the streets of Nairobi.
One of those who died was 21-year-old Robin Kiambuthi, who described his car, a Mitsubishi Colt, as a “little speed monster.” He had modified it to make it faster and more comfortable.
Wrecked metal, tyre skid marks, broken beer bottles, splattered blood and a crumbled engine were all that remained of the illegal drag race after another speeding driver ploughed into Mr Kiambuthi’s car as he made a sudden move to exit the road without warning, according to survivors.
The Sunday evening accident occurred at Ol Donyo Sambu, 25 kilometres to Arusha from the Namanga border crossing. Reports indicate that between four and eight people were killed.
In the movie, Fast and Furious, actor Vin Diesel, who plays Dominic Toretto, an ex-convict-turned-mechanic, leads a team of elite street racers, including Michelle Rodriguez, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Paul Walker (who incidentally died after his car crashed and burst into flames in 2013).
“If you want to get them, never, ever let them get into a car,” actor Dwayne Johnson, who acts as a policeman in one of the franchise movies, advises law enforcement officers on how to get the elite street racers.
Mostly children from rich neighbourhoods, the street racers have invested in speed machines like the Subaru STI, Subaru STI EA-R, VW Golf GTI, VW Golf R, Mitsubishi Evolution 8, VW Golf R and the Mitsubishi Evolution 9.
Other cars they use include the Subaru Imprezza Type R, Mitsubishi Evo 9, Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart, Subaru Imprezza, Mitsubishi Evo X, Nissan GTR R35, Nissan 350 Z, Subaru N10 and Audi A3.
After the Arusha event, the racers were planning another event near the Masinga dam towards the end of April.
On Monday, neighbours told the Nation that Robin left their Runda home in a jovial mood, excited about the Arusha event dubbed The Arusha Drive 3.0. In a poster advertising the event, the organisers said: “Do not talk. Let the car do the talking for you.”
Robin is the son of Mr Patrick Njiru, who owns a chain of businesses, notably the Kenya Moja buses, and is a nephew of Kirinyaga County Woman Representative, Wangui Ngirici.
“He was one of the competitors when the accident that shocked everyone at home occurred,” a relative said.
The racing enthusiast was studying engineering at DT Dobie in Nairobi.
His red Mitsubishi had four occupants, three of whom died. They include his friend, IT specialist Onesmus Mwange, who runs a car systems business, and a woman identified only as Linet.
His female friend, who is yet to be identified, survived and is fighting for her life in hospital alongside several others who were injured.
A Kenyan race car driver, who took part in the race but refused to be named due to restrictions by his club, said that a team of about 30 Kenyans had been invited by their Tanzanian friends for a barbecue, alongside the street race.
“We formed a WhatsApp group to ease our planning. We travelled in eight cars,” he told the Nation on phone, adding that they normally do the goat-eating and drinking events in turns.
He said the race was yet to begin when the accident occurred. A convoy of four cars from Kenya had arrived at Ol Donyo Sambu ahead of the rest, he said, and was making its way to the venue of the barbecue.
He said Onesmus was their group leader and was leading the convoy, driving Robin’s car.
Reported by Anita Chepkoech, George Munene and Nyambega Gisesa