, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 12 – It was a mixed feeling of tears and joy as relatives, friends and worshippers gathered at the PCEA church in Landless area of Thika where over 80 women were involved in an accident in Tanzania on Friday.
Esther Maina is one of the survivors of the accident that involved two buses that were ferrying the women on a church mission to Tanzania.
“The drivers had agreed to follow each other closely but at some point we realised that we could not see the lights of the other vehicle that was to follow us. Our driver informed us that he was going to stop to see whether the other vehicle would approach,” Esther narrates.
It did not and instead one of the women called another in the other bus who informed them that they had been involved in an accident and their bus had rolled.
“We asked them where they were but they could not explain because none knew the route and there were no road signs and we didn’t even know how far we were. So we had to make a u-turn and go back and try to locate where they were,” she added.
She remembers that it was very dark and they were using torches to try and locate their colleagues from both sides of the road.
“We could not locate them and we called again and told them if there was anyone who was not badly hurt to come out of the vehicle and come to the road so that we could see exactly where they were,” she says.
“We made another U-turn and that is when we met another truck which had already stopped and we came out, our driver put on the hazard and stopped on the left side of the road so that we could alight and go and help our friends.”
She says the first bus involved in the accident had rolled at a valley on the slippery road. It had been drizzling.
“It had rolled several times but it had landed on the side. I am a nurse and so I tried to use my phone to locate the victims who were injured. The driver had been trapped inside the bus,” she says.
And when they were removing the injured from the vehicle, they heard a loud bang. A trailer had rammed on the second bus making it also roll several times.
“We forgot about the initial accident and we rushed over to that place and we realised most of the people who were lying on the floor had already passed away or they were in their last moments. We tried everything that we could,” she remembers.
She says it took long for them to receive help despite the villagers gathering around.
“The villagers came in big numbers but they didn’t come to assist. They were watching us all along. We continued screaming and asking them to help us remove the people who were trapped in the bus and they were just standing there, I don’t know, I don’t know, they were saying that they had not seen another accident like that one.”
She says there was a lot of delay in helping the injured which caused some to die whereas they could have survived if they got immediate help.
“They say the distance is far from Dar-es-Salaam so they took a long time, over two hours before the first vehicle came to assist us carry the injured to hospital.
She says the first bus could have rolled due to the condition of the road but it did not have any mechanical problem.
A memorial service for the 13 who perished in the accident is to be held on Wednesday.
Church leader Festus Gitonga praised the quick response by the Kenyan government to evacuate the women from Tanzania.
“The speed of the government is fast when they are willing. We were happy when the President issued the orders because things moved very fast,” he said.
Area MP William Kabogo who joined in the Sunday service said the government would cater for the funeral expenses.
“We are grateful to the government because Friday was a very long day and we saw the hand of government in helping and we would want to thank them so much. We kept informing his Excellency the President because he was interested in knowing what exactly was happening,” he said.
Fifty eight survivors of the accident were flown back to the country and rushed to Kenyatta National hospital late Friday after the President directed the Air force to facilitate their safe return.
Seven of the survivors were in a critical condition.
The bodies of the deceased were also flown in and taken to the Kenyatta University mortuary.