10 October 2018

Kenya: Killer Bus From Nairobi Not Licensed for Night Travel

Photo: Isaac Wale/Nation
Family and friends mourn the death of five victims of the Fort Ternan crash in Muluanda, Kakamega County on October 11.

Authorities charged with regulating public road transport have admitted that the bus which crashed in Kericho Wednesday killing 50 people and leaving others critically injured was operating illegally.

Francis Meja, the Director-General of the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), said the bus known as Home Boyz and operated by the Western Cross Roads Express Sacco had no licence to operate at night.

"This vehicle had no licence to transport passengers at night and the owners will have to take responsibility," Mr Meja told NTV Sasa show.

'WILL FACE THE LAW'

"They will face the law and we will take them to court to answer to charges," he said.

The morning crash which happened at 4.30am became one of the most horrendous incidents in the recent months on the new highway, built only in 2015 to shorten the distance for travellers between Kisumu and Nakuru.

The highway has also opened up the hinterlands of Kisumu and Kericho counties.

NTSA had banned night travel for public transport buses last December in a bid to stop road carnage.

But activist Okiya Omtata sued the State, forcing a reversal of the decision.

On Wednesday, Mr Meja blamed the court decision for poor road safety regulation, saying it tied their hands.

"If you look at the data we have, most accidents happen at night and we wanted to stop that. But we had no choice when the court directed we reverse the policy," he said.

The cause of the crash was not immediately established and traffic police chiefs said they will investigate it.

DRIVER WAS SPEEDING

But witnesses and survivors claimed that the driver of the bus was speeding on a road that has poor signage and has sharp bends.

They added that the driver might have have dozed off since it was early morning, having driven for most of the night from Nairobi.

But the road, critics say, is poorly marked, has sharp bends and is not busy, giving public passenger transporters the leeway to speed.

This bus carrying 61 people also had loads of luggage, which were strewn around the ravine as it plunged through the road girders, stirring the passengers in the cabin.

When the Nation team arrived on scene, rescuers had pulled out 48 bodies from the wreckage.

One more body of a child was pulled out moments later while another man died on the hospital bed in Fort Ternan where he had been rushed.

In total, local Police Commander James Mugera told journalists that 31 men, 12 women and seven children had died in the horror crash.

RESCUE MISSION

Mr Mugera, who said his team arrived on time to help with the rescue mission already begun by local volunteers, added that those critically injured were rushed to various hospitals in Kisumu and Kericho counties.

By Wednesday afternoon, the Kenya Red Cross Society had set up an information desk at the Kericho County Referral Hospital to help relatives check whether their kin had survived the horror crash.

The Red Cross team was also charged with counselling relatives of the victims.

At the Kericho County Referral Hospital, there were long queues as members of the public sought to check on the survivors.

Survivors claimed the bus driver, who had driven all the way from Nairobi at night, had initially turned back to the bus stage to pick passengers he had 'forgotten.'

The four people travelled while standing, despite protests from other passengers.

On Wednesday afternoon, Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet said three officials of the sacco would be charged in court.

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