13 December 2017

Kenya: Salgaa - the Nakuru Blackspot Where Death Is a Slip Away


The Ngata-Kamara stretch, where more than 39 people died in 24 hours, on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway is notorious for tragic crashes in Nakuru County.

Hardly a month goes by without a fatal collision happening along the stretch covering Sobea, Salgaa, Migaa, Sachangwan, Total and Mau Summit.


The most horrific crash at the stretch occurred on January 31, 2009 and involved an oil tanker transporting fuel from Mombasa to Eldoret.

The crash claimed more than 130 lives and left scores of others with life-long wounds and scars.

The tanker that was parked at Sachangwan trading centre overturned after its driver and his turnboy had alighted.

Villagers, some living as far as 20 kilometres from the market, came to scoop the spilt oil said to have been close to 42,000 litres.

According to witnesses, the petroleum burst into flames two hours after the tanker overturned.

The victims included those who went to scoop the oil, curious onlookers and passers-by.


Witnesses say a man struck a matchbox a few metres away from the scene of the accident, causing the fireball from hell.

According to Mr Joseph Kipchumba, a witness, police had demanded a Sh50 fee from everyone who wanted to scoop the oil.

The man, angered by the police demands, lit a match few metres away from the overturned tanker.

Many of the victims died in a nearby blue gum thicket as they attempted to make their way to Molo River, which is close to the road.

The forest also caught fire and some of it was consumed by the flames that burned for nearly three hours.

Apart from the tanker, two other vehicles-- a saloon and an SUV-- were burnt to shells after curious drivers stopped to find out what was happening.

989 DEAD

Nakuru County is ranked second after Nairobi in road crashes, according to the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) reports.

"At least 203 lives have been lost on the on the roads in Nakuru County between January and November while Nairobi recorded 213 deaths," says NTSA Nakuru County coordinator and manager for safety strategies Samuel Musumba.

Road Safety Association of Kenya Secretary-General Wambugu Nyamu notes that most crashes occur at night.

"The first major accident that occurred along the stretch was in 1995 where 54 people died. In the past 21 years, 989 people have perished along the stretch," he says.

According to Nyamu, the use of speed limit gadgets during the day has reduced crashes, with most drivers speeding at night.

"During the day, there is close monitoring of speed. Due to absence of police officers and speed monitoring gadgets, most accidents occur at night," he says.

St Johns Ambulance, which has been among first responders at crash scenes, attributes the accidents to speeding and dangerous overtaking, especially on the slopes and sharp bends.


Communications Manager Fred Majiwa warns that December may turn out to be deadliest month if drivers don't take caution.

Although there has been a 4.1 per cent decline in deaths between January and November in 2017 as compared to 2016, historically, the month of December is almost synonymous with road deaths.

"In this deadly festive period, the major focus of road safety stakeholders is in Nakuru County, particularly at the notorious blackspots like Salgaa, Karai and Mai Mahiu," he says.

"Motorists need to be extra careful as they head out to their holiday destinations."

David Njoroge Kiarie, chairman of Road Safety Association of Kenya, asks Kenya National Highways Authority to erect more bumps between Ngata and Salgaa on the Nakuru -Eldoret highway to help arrest the spiralling crash wave.


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