4 January 2013

Kenya: Molo Matatu Crash Death Toll Rises to 21

The death toll from Wednesday's Molo accident rose to 21 overnight as two more people succumbed to their injuries.

A child who had been transferred to the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital in Nakuru died undergoing treatment, while a middle-aged man passed away at Molo District Hospital on Wednesday night.

Ten people were still admitted in hospital by yesterday afternoon. At Molo district hospital, nine people -- five children, two men and two women -- were admitted in various wards.

Amongst those recuperating at the hospital was the ill-fated matatu's conductor, 23-year-old Robert Tonui, who denied he had overloaded his vehicle.

Tonui, who was visibly in pain, said there were only 14 passengers in his vehicle but that most of them "were carrying small children".

Put to task about the high death toll for a 14-seater matatu, Tonui said, "I have no idea where these other people came from. My matatu only had 14 people."

He said he could not remember how the accident occurred but said the brakes could have failed. He said the driver was not speeding contrary to police reports.

Another survivor, 32-year-old Wesley Cheruiyot who is been treated for a fractured arm and chest pains, recalled how they went past two police road blocks in Keringet and Muchorwe along the busy Molo-Olenguruone road before the accident happened. He said at both police check points, the matatu was not stopped despite being heavily overloaded.

"When I boarded it, it was not full but as we embarked on the journey more people boarded it at various point. At no point did the police stop us," Cheruiyot said.

Molo police are said to be still carrying out investigations into the cause of the accident and there are no immediate plans to charge any of the matatu crew with any traffic offences, according to divisional police boss Job Lesikinwa.

Lesikinwa refused to comment on allegations of rampant overloading on Molo matatus and instead said he would only release a full brief after investigations into the crash have been completed.

As the police boss spoke, traffic police carried out a major operation along all roads in Molo leading to 18 vehicles being impounded for various offences.

The majority of matatu operators, however, stayed off the road to escape the police dragnet, leaving hundreds of commuters stranded.

Meanwhile, two children admitted at the hospital in Molo are yet to be claimed by relatives. Hospital officials suspect that relatives who had accompanied the two died in the crash.

A nine-year-old boy has been traumatised after the crash and cannot help police trace his relatives as he is unable to speak.

A nine-month-old baby girl who suffered facial injuries and is also yet to be claimed. A middle-aged woman is admitted in critical condition with two of her daughters both aged under 10.

Hospital officials said they were making plans to transfer the family to the provincial hospital in Nakuru where another victim of the crash, a middle-aged man, is admitted in the Intensive Care Unit.

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