, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 30 – Faces were awash with tears and cries rent the air as the families of the Umoja train-matatu crash fatalities identified their loved ones’ bodies.
They sat in pairs or stood surrounded by family and friends outside the Mama Lucy Kibaki hospital mortuary crying into tissues or slumped on the grass when their grief got too heavy to bear.
“I lost my neighbour; she was a close friend of mine. She left home like normal. But maybe her son can tell you better,” one lady told Capital FM News when she managed to heave herself off the grass outside the mortuary.
Her disbelief was mirrored in her neighbour’s son. “They called me and told me to come here. I can’t say what happened. I wasn’t there,” he said before responding to his ringing phone.
“I’m fine. Everything is fine here. I’ll call you but I won’t,” he said in confusion before taking the phone off his ear and shouting into it, “I said I’ll call you but I won’t!”
Not far off in the grass sat two young ladies, their eyes bloodshot, “we work in the market; at a salon. We’re here because our colleague lost her mother,” one of them said before they got up to leave.
A stone’s throw away sat another pair on a short stone wall; a young man with his arms around a young girl who appeared to be a teenager or at most in her early twenties.
“I can’t say,” was all the young man said to Capital FM News.
And even as these families grieved there were yet others lined-up at the mortuary entrance. Some either too impatient or curious to wait their turn pressed their noses against the mortuary windows.
“We don’t want anyone peeking through the windows,” an Administration Police officer kept shouting at them.
They’d retreat but invariably another group would crowd the windows hoping to catch a glimpse of the bodies that lay therein.
They were seven bodies in total; five female and two male. One of which was laid out on the floor of the square room. One bloodied leg bandaged.
And standing in the midst of this death and sorrow stood one shell-shocked Violet Atieno.
She knew none of the dead or their survivors, neither was she on the train and yet she stood among them, a black plastic paper bag in hand.
“I just felt I needed to be here. I saw it happen. I’d gone to the market so I could prepare something special for my child who turns two today and this tragedy just served to remind me how fickle life is,” she said.
Otieno then recounted how she saw the Umoinner bus get on the train tracks in a bid to overtake a saloon car then it got hit by the train.
“I don’t think he (the bus driver) realised just how close the train really was, with all the business going on around the train tracks it’s hard to tell. Sometimes the vendors even sell the merchandise on the tracks themselves then get out of the way when they hear the horn,” she explained.
But as it turned out, not everyone was at the hospital to condole with the families, “Did you ask them before you took their picture?” a friend of one of the bereaved asked a cameraman who had stuck his camera into their car window.
“Why didn’t you take her picture when she was outside the car? Why wait for them to start praying?” the enraged friend posed.
The more pertinent question however may be how to stop the senseless killing on our roads with the Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo again calling on Kenyans to take responsibility for their safety.
“Passengers should desist from being ferried by reckless drivers.”