Kenya: Tough Task Ahead as Ferry Tragedy Probe Begins

14 October 2019

Detectives are trying to connect dots on the preliminary findings of the state of the ill-fated vehicle that plunged into the Indian Ocean at Likoni crossing channel late last month, killing a woman and her daughter.

The puzzle that the detectives are faced with is to establish whether the engine of the car was running when it slipped from the faulty prows of MV Harambee on the evening of September 29.

The ignition key of the station wagon was off but the windshield wipers were found to be on.

The gear, according to the Scene of Crime unit officers, was in the parking mode when the car was pulled out of the ocean at the Mbaraki Wharf.

DOORS BROKEN

Close up photos of the vehicle seen by the Nation show that the wiper control gear was down. "We suspect the wipers were switched on when the woman panicked because the ignition key was locked, and the gear is in the parking mode. We cannot tell the state of the brakes at the time of the accident," a detective involved in the investigation said.

The vehicle's sliding doors open and close automatically, a fact that is still puzzles the investigators.

The Nation has learnt that detectives broke the doors to gain entry into the vehicle when it was pulled out of the ocean on Friday afternoon.

"This also showed that the vehicle had been switched off since the door could not open. We are only left with assessing the engine," another investigator told the Nation.

The state of the vehicle has formed the riddle that police officers are attempting to crack as they investigate the deaths of the occupants of the minivan -- Mariam Kighenda and her four-year-old daughter Amanda Mutheu.

AUTOPSY

The Nation also understands that police want to get the woman's phone as it was not seen in the car. "We found some stickers with religious inscriptions in the vehicle, some dating back to 2016," a detective said.

By the time of going to press Sunday, a post-mortem was being conducted on the bodies at Jocham Hospital mortuary before they are taken for burial in Makueni County.

The vehicle is at Likoni Ferry police station. It has also emerged that police are making arrangements to get statements from Kenya Ferry Services officials who were at the channel when the incident happened.

An investigator from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations said the statements would be collected from the coxswain, the ramp controllers and the private security guards who were on duty that evening.

Witnesses said the ill-fated station wagon was among the last vehicles to drive into the ferry on the mainland side of the Likoni channel.

VIP LANE

Passengers and witnesses said some KFS officials attempted to block Kighenda's vehicle from driving into the ferry after she was seen using the VIP lane.

"The KFS official stopped the car but was asked to leave her as she had been given a go-ahead by his colleague, who helped the driver get the ticket," a guard at the channel said. Normally, a small car is charged Sh120 per trip.

Kighenda was from her farm in Gasi, Msambweni Sub-County in Kwale, and was heading home when the incident occurred.

She had called her husband to tell him that she was already on the ferry. Her vehicle plunged into the ocean midstream as passengers watched.

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