, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 30 – The death toll following Wednesday morning’s accident where a matatu collided with a train at Mutindwa in Nairobi’s Umoja estate has risen to 12.
Three of the passengers died on the spot after the accident which occurred shortly before 7am while seven others died on arrival at the Mama Lucy Hospital.
Police and Kenya Red Cross officials say two others succumbed to injuries while being taken to hospital.
Traffic Commandant Samuel Kimaru says those injured were taken to Mama Lucy, Metropolitan and the Kenyatta National Hospital.
“Several people were also injured in the incident which occurred shortly before 7am. Most of them were helped by good Samaritans,” he said.
Witnesses say the accident occurred when the driver of the matatu which had just picked passengers from Umoja tried to cross the railway line while ignoring the oncoming train which was hooting.
“In front of this matatu was a personal car. It passed and at the same time the driver of the matatu engaged the gear. The train was coming slowly and when it reached, we were all shouting. When its front wheels went over the railway line, it stalled and in no time the train rammed into it,” a witness said.
The Dandora bound commuter train dragged the 33-seater matatu almost 25 metres from the intersection before it stopped.
“People were confused at the impact and no one even jumped out when the matatu was being dragged. It was when the train stopped fully that people started jumping out. It took me and other people three minutes to reach the wreckage and the driver was nowhere to be seen,” one of the witness stated.
Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko blamed the accident on poor visibility caused by the high number of shops on both sides of the railway line.
“We have seen that there are a lot of traders on both sides of the railway line who block the view of the train and even oncoming vehicles. Though they voted for me, we shall remove them from the area so that the visibility may be clear to both the train drivers and motorists. However, we could have avoided all this if we had barriers at the junction,” he said.
He stated that steps will be taken to remove such structures to ensure the safety of Kenyans around the railway line.
“We are going to remove those shops whether it will spoil my votes or not to avoid any future accidents in the area,” he said.
He further pointed out that the railway company should have taken precautions to alert motorists of oncoming trains.
“There is a mistake here which a child in kindergarten can clearly see. The contractor who made this road should have ensured that there is a bridge at the barrier where the train is passing. Even at those barriers, there should be someone from the railway company who is going to direct traffic when a train is approaching,” he explained.
The owner of the matatu Edward Akelo on the other hand said that no one should be blamed for the incident but that appropriate measures need to be put in place to prevent future occurrences.
“There should have been those barriers to the right and to the left to help motorists see that this is the time for the train to pass and that you should not cross. This is not to say that we should apportion any blame to anyone. This was an accident,” he indicated.
Rift Valley Railway company Chief Operations Officer Darlan De David pointed out that efforts should now be on helping those affected by the accident.
“We are very sad about what happened this morning. What we are doing now is rescue and recovery and our focus now is to make sure that our people are assisted in the hospitals. We are also carrying out investigations and together with the police, we are collecting data on this incident to help us understand what happened to assist us prevent any future occurrences,” he stated.