NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 22 – The owner of a bus that crashed in Fort Ternan in Kericho County early this month leaving 58 passengers dead has denied operating an unroadworthy vehicle and flouting guidelines governing Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operations.
Molo Principal Magistrate Samuel Wahome on Monday directed Bernard Shitiabayi and his fleet manager Cleophas Shimanyula to each execute a Sh million surety bond with an alternative of Sh 1 million cash bail pending the mention of the case on November 5.
The two who have been in custody since October 10 will appear before the Magistrate on November 28 for a scheduled hearing.
Shitiabayi and Shimanyalu are have been indicted for allowing the ill-fated bus to operate at night without a valid nighttime Road Service License.
The duo has also been faulted for not keeping records of the crew manning the bus in compliance with safety regulations.
The Fort Ternan accident which occurred along the Londiani-Muhoroni road on October 10 stirred public anger after emerged the vehicle involved in the accident had carried excess and that it was nevertheless cleared by police officers manning road blocks.
Reacting to the incident on October 11, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said the responsibility to enforce traffic rules along the Londiani-Muhoroni road where the tragic passenger bus crash occurred fell on the Kericho County Commander.
Boinnet made the comment while dismissing claims that an ambiguous command structure in light of realignments in the police service could have impeded enforcement of traffic rules.
“Enforcement of traffic laws is the responsibility of the Regional Commander, the County Commander, Sub-County Commanders and respective Officers Commanding Police Divisions,” he said vowing to take action against officers who may have neglected duty.
“Initially we had one hierarchical structure called the Traffic Department with a Commandant and officers across the country but I reviewed that so that respective County Commanders have an express mandate to enforce traffic laws within their jurisdictions,” the police boss told reporters.
Preliminary findings also showed that the bus was not made continuous rolling bar a situation that led to the ripping off of the roof.
Speaking alongside Boinnet, National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) Director General Francis Meja said the agency had developed new body construction standards for passenger vehicle to mitigate causalities during accidents.
“All passenger buses currently being manufactured effective May 22, 2017 are compliant to the new body construction standards. The issue we currently have is what to do with the in excess of 100,000 buses that were on our roads before the new standards took effect,” the NTSA boss indicated.
According to Meja, the NTSA was considering revising the seven-year deadline within which passenger vehicles are to conform to the new guidelines from the date of the adoption of new body construction standards.
“We had given a transition period of seven years but in light of the continuous loss of lives, we want to revisit this matter together with stakeholders so that we have the new construction standard complied with sooner,” he said.
The accident attracted attention from international news agencies as it went down as one of the most devastating single-vehicle-accident in Kenya’s recent history.