A devastating road accident in western Kenya resulted in the loss of at least 48 lives as a truck veered out of control, colliding with vehicles and pedestrians at a bustling intersection, according to the local authorities.
Distressing television footage displayed scenes of destruction at the crash site, revealing the twisted wreckage of multiple minibuses and an overturned truck. Rescuers, braving the darkness, worked diligently to locate any individuals potentially trapped beneath the truck.
“After assessing the situation, we can confirm the death toll stands at 48, and we suspect there may still be one or two individuals trapped beneath the truck,” stated Geoffrey Mayek, the regional police commander, in an interview with AFP.
The tragic incident occurred around 6:30 pm (1530 GMT) on the highway connecting Kericho and Nakuru.
Mayek further disclosed that approximately 30 people sustained severe injuries and were swiftly transported to various hospitals. He cautioned that the casualty count might rise as more information becomes available.
An eyewitness, Maureen Jepkoech, shared her harrowing account, saying, “I witnessed a horrifying scene of bodies and blood everywhere. Many lives have been lost.”
Tom Mboya Odero, the regional police commander for the Rift Valley, explained that the truck, en route to Kericho, “lost control and collided with eight vehicles, numerous motorcycles, bystanders, vendors, and others engaged in their daily activities.”
Following the accident at the heavily congested Londiani junction, Kenyan leaders, including President William Ruto, expressed their condolences to the affected families.
Transport Minister Kipchumba Murkomen took to Twitter, mentioning that rescue efforts would be followed by a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the collision.
Collins Kipkoech, a senior doctor at Kericho County Hospital, reported that their morgue had received 45 bodies thus far, while additional victims were being transported to different medical facilities.
He added, “The rescue operation is still ongoing.”
The Kenyan Red Cross dispatched ambulances and rescue teams to the scene, but their efforts faced challenges due to heavy rainfall.
A witness, Jepkoech, reported that “The truck was speeding and honking its horn. It attempted to evade multiple vehicles before crashing straight into the marketplace.”
She expressed gratitude for her survival, saying, “I consider myself fortunate because I witnessed the incident and managed to escape. I am simply lucky.”
Joel Rotich, another witness, recalled, “The accident unfolded suddenly, leaving many with no time to flee. There was utter chaos as people screamed, running in every direction after the crash.”
He continued, “It took some time before people gathered the courage to assist the injured.”
Statistics from Kenya’s National Transport and Safety Authority reveal that, in the previous year, road accidents involved at least 21,760 individuals, resulting in 4,690 fatalities. Murkomen, in a December speech, attributed much of the carnage on the roads to human error, including drunk or reckless driving, speeding, and dangerous overtaking.
Figures for the first three months of 2023 indicated a slight decrease in fatalities to 974, which the National Transport and Safety Authority credited to a government awareness campaign.
Expressing his grief, Kericho County Governor Erick Mutai wrote on Facebook, “My heart is shattered,” referring to the incident as a “dark moment” for the people of Kericho, renowned for its expansive tea plantations. He conveyed his condolences to the bereaved families and assured them that ambulances were mobilized, and healthcare facilities were on standby.
President Ruto, joining in mourning, expressed solidarity with the grieving families. He urged motorists to exercise extreme caution, particularly during heavy rain.