11 December 2017

Kenya: Families in Grief After Five Artistes Die in Road Crash

Photo: John Njoroge/Daily Nation
The wreckage of the car that collided with a truck on Saturday at Kamara on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway.

Families and friends of five artistes and two other people who perished in an accident at Kamara on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway on Saturday are yet to come to terms with the tragedy.

On Sunday, grief engulfed the Molo Sub-County Hospital mortuary as friends and families of the victims identified the bodies of their loved ones.

Five of the two women and five men who died were part of Kamua Artistes, a band that produces and performs Kalenjin songs.

They met their fate when their car collided head-on with a truck. Mr Vincent Kimutai, a member of the musical group from Bomet County who escaped death, yesterday narrated the events prior to the crash.

According to Mr Kimutai, Saturday was a big day for more than 10 artistes from four counties as they prepared to entertain hundreds of their fans at Block Four, bordering Baringo and Uasin Gishu.

By 4pm on Saturday, the band was ready to begin the journey to Block Four estate from Kericho town. As they organised themselves, all seemed to go as planned.


Little did they know that death was awaiting some of the crew members.

The hired vehicle they were to use could not accommodate all of them. As a result, some boarded a matatu in Kericho and headed to the venue.

"I was about to board the car but my friend and a fellow artiste called me and asked me to wait for him so that I would pay his fare," said Mr Kimutai as tears flowed freely down his cheeks.

He told the Nation that he decided to wait for his friend, who insisted that he had to accompany him to the event, and so the rest of the artistes left.

Mr Weldon Cheruiyot, fondly known as Keneny, a popular Kalenjin singer, was among members of the band who were in the car.

"We were together with Keneny and we were supposed to head to the event in the same vehicle but I delayed a bit and was left behind. We had agreed that I bring two dancers and he would bring two from his crew," said Ms Florence Chepng'etich alias Naswa.


"We later started receiving calls from concerned individuals who said they had learnt about a deadly accident at Kamara in which artistes were victims. When we arrived at the Total junction and found a heavy traffic jam, our worries worsened," said Ms Chepng'etich.

"My colleagues attempted to the others, but there was no response. When we finally arrived at the scene, our worst fears were confirmed. Our colleagues had been involved in a fatal accident," she said, amid sobs.

Mr Reuben Ng'eno, Keneny's uncle, said he learnt from the media about the accident and was shocked to hear that his nephew was among the dead.

"We have lost a hardworking and dependable person. He recently built his parents a luxurious house in Bomet," said Mr Ng'eno.

It also emerged on Sunday that Julius Bett, alias J.B. Semenya, another Kalenjin musician well- known for his collaboration with the late Diana Chelele, collapsed and died on learning of the fate of his colleagues.

"After receiving news about the accident that claimed the lives of his friends, J.B. Semenya died," Mr Lenard Ngetich, the musical group's Nakuru director, told the Nation. According to Molo traffic base commander Moses Nderitu, the driver of the car was trying to overtake another vehicle heading to Nakuru when the crash occurred between 8.30pm and 8.45pm on Saturday.


"The driver of the Probox did not take precaution before overtaking the vehicle ahead of him and this might have caused the accident," said Mr Nderitu.

The truck was transporting chicken feed from Eldoret to Kiambu County.

The driver of the lorry and his loader escaped with injuries.

The crash caused a huge jam on the busy Nakuru-Eldoret highway and police had a hectic time controlling traffic.

At the same time, various leaders on Sunday mourned the five artistes.

Led by Deputy President William Ruto and Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso, the politicians consoled the bereaved families, and said the deaths were a big loss to the Kalenjin community and Kenya.

"I send my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of Mr Weldon Cheruiyot of Keneny International and his troupe following a tragic road crash last evening. We also mourn with those who lost their loved ones in the accident at Moinonin in Baringo County," said Mr Ruto in a statement.


The DP urged motorists to be cautious and obey traffic rules, especially during this festive season, to avoid further loss of lives.

"I received the news of the deaths of the musicians from Bomet County with shock and dismay. It is sad that we have lost talented young men and women in the prime of their youth. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the departed," said Dr Laboso in a statement.

She said the county government would support the families of the musicians as they make funeral arrangements.

Nakuru Deputy Governor Eric Korir, who met family members and colleagues of the artistes at the mortuary, regretted that the deaths had come at a time when Keneny's star was shining and when his dependants needed him most.

"It is sad that we have lost so many artistes at a go. It is a big loss to the Kalenjin community, to Kenya and to the affected counties," said Dr Korir.

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