Seven football fans, including a young woman, died on Saturday night when a stampede broke out at a highly-charged Kenyan Premier League football match between Gor Mahia and arch-rivals AFC Leopards at the Nyayo National Stadium.
The head of the Kenyan Premier League medical department, Dr Andrew Suleh, said the young woman died as he and other medical personnel waited for ambulances to gain entry into the packed stadium to take her to hospital.
And police on Saturday night put the figure of casualties at seven from the stampede shortly after the match kicked off at 7pm.
At the Kenyatta National Hospital, Dr Suleh said the young woman, in her early 20s, died as they tried to resuscitate her.
“There were very many people at the stadium and when it started raining, they were struggling to get into the VIP centre stand, causing the stampede,” Dr Suleh said.
“The main gate was packed with people and it was impossible for the ambulances to get through.”
Dr Suleh recounted the woman dying as his team tried to resuscitate her at the match which was broadcast live throughout the continent.
“Her last words were ‘can’t you people do something’, words she uttered shortly before she passed off. On Saturday night, more than 20 fans were in critical condition in what goes down as Kenya’s worst sporting disaster.
As disaster struck, most of the fans inside the stadium were not aware of what was going on, although the match was held up for about 15 minutes as fans spilled onto the pitch.
“The emergency gate remained closed which is quite unfortunate as it is supposed to be opened,” Dr Suleh said. “The young lady died because the ambulance could not get to her.”
“This game has surprised everybody,” Kenyan Premier League official Frank Okoth said at half-time in an interview on pay television channel Supersport that was televising the match from the stadium.
“There were so many fans outside who attempted to force their way into the stadium but they did not have match tickets.”
Witnesses blamed Football Kenya Limited and the Kenya Premier League for poor organisation leading to many fans being locked out.
One fan, Ken Mugonyi, told the Sunday Nation that there was no football official and neither were the police on sight to control the surging crowds.
The fan said people were trampled upon by fans who wanted to get into the stadium. “There were neither ambulances nor assistance. Absolutely nothing,” an angry fan who witnessed the incident said.
Instead, it was the members of the public who attempted to assist the injured to hospital. Many of those injured were said to have sustained broken limbs and ribs.
Inside the stadium, the match went on albeit with an interruption when a fan strayed onto the pitch as a Gor Mahia player was preparing to take a corner kick. The fan was roughed up as he was led off the field of play.
The match was stopped for about 15 minutes as the match referee consulted with the linesmen and the fourth official.
Gor Mahia won the match 1-0 through a late penalty scored by Collins Okoth. A fortnight ago, at the Kenya vs Uganda Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, surging crowds broke the gate to the VIP section of the Nyayo National Stadium but no injuries were reported.
In 2005, a fan died in another Africa Cup of Nations-cum-2006 World Cup qualifying match between Kenya and Morocco, prompting world football governing body, Fifa, to order the stadium capacity at Nyayo reduced to 26,000 from its 30,000 capacity.