, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 23 – Survivors of Sunday evening’s tragedy at the Hells Gate National Park are still reeling in grief and shock following the mishap that left seven of their colleagues dead.
Leonard Njuguna’s face was wrought in disbelief as he tried to come to terms with what started out as a sun-filled excursion but ended in gloom as he watched his friends being swept away by the sudden deluge at the park.
He stated that he could still hear his friends’ screams as they were swept away by the raging waters.
“When we reached up there, the water was flowing with force. Of all those who had climbed out, it was only one who was overcome with fatigue and so he lost his grip and in an instant, he was gone,” he said.
The survivor were part of a 40-member youth group from PCEA Mukarara who had gone for an excursion when the tragedy struck, leaving seven church members dead.
“It was so sad to see someone who you were with being swept away by the water and despite their cries of help, there is nothing you could do about it,” Njuguna sadly recalled.
His fellow church member Joseph Mucugia who also escaped death narrowly said the weather gave no indication it would turn their trip into a disaster.
“As the youth you normally go for an outing when you are very excited especially when you are hiking. The weather was very conducive when we were going there but then when we reached the main gorge it changed dramatically and it started raining,” he stated. “When we reached the devil’s kitchen, we had to make a choice that the girls should go first then the men.”
An emotional Yvonne Brigit who was also whisked to safety recounted how they had nearly given up hope before they were rescued.
“As we climbed, we just heard water which was carrying large rocks. As it flowed, we imagined that the others who we had left behind had already gone back to the bus only to find out that they had already been carried away by the water,” she said.
You can watch footage of the moment when the flash floods struck below.
“There was this one guy who was on top of the rock. He slid and fell on to some of the rocks at the waterfall and he just went down with it and we never saw him again,” she recalled amid sobbing.
For Jacinta Mbithi whose daughter survived the ordeal, it was a harrowing moment as she sought to get news about her whereabouts.
She said that she heard the news from the media and went into a state of panic since all her efforts to reach her daughter had failed.
She thanked God for bringing her home safely but condoled with those who had lost their loved ones in the tragedy.
“I heard about the incident during the 9pm prime news and knew my daughter had gone there. I had already tried to call her from 4pm so that I know whether they had travelled safely but the call was not going through,” she recalled.
“So now when I saw the news, what came to my mind was that my daughter was among those who had perished because I was not getting through to her,” she said.
She called on the government to ensure that safety measures are put in place at the park to prevent such incidences in the future.
“I am feeling very bad since that is a place where there should have been network boosters so that at least there is communication in case of any occurrence,” she stated.
A church member Samuel Kimani also said the deaths left a gap which would be difficult to fill.
“I felt very sad and my message to the parents of the children is that we are sorry for them. Seven members of our church perishing in floods as it is happening in other areas is a sad story.”
Watch interviews with the survivors rand their family members below.