Journey from prelate’s silver jubilee fete ends in tragedy
After a short prayer, the group started their journey back to Nakuru, humming beautiful hymns as their four-wheel-drive vehicle cut through the scenic Kakamega tropical forest.
Dan Mbandu, was behind the wheel and had driven on this road many times before, while Lay Apostolate Ronald Sunguti sat at the co-driver’s seat.
Two Catholic nuns, Sister Margaret Mambua and Sister Abigael Ayabei, sat at the back, reminiscing the day’s event. Nothing gave them a hint of what lay ahead of them.
Suddenly, a downpour accompanied by strong winds, thunder and lightning.
Then they heard a huge bang followed by a screeching sound that blew off the roof of their vehicle. A huge tree trunk had fallen on their vehicle.
When the vehicle came to a halt, Mbandu was unconscious—the tree having fallen on his head.
“Our Bishop Maurice Muhatia (Nakuru Catholic Diocese) was celebrating his silver jubilee at his home in Shinyalu, Kakamega county,” Sunguti recalls. It was September 2 at around 2pm.
After the accident, the four were rushed by well-wishers to Kapsabet Level 4 Hospital where Mbandu, who had suffered severe injuries, was referred to Top Hill Hospital in Eldoret for further treatment.
“He was placed in Intensive Care Unit for three weeks and after he started making good progress, he was transferred to the normal wards,” said Sunguti, who was himself treated and discharged.
“The tree had a huge bend and that’s why some of us escaped unhurt,” he said, pain, sadness and anguish written all over his face.
The tree, he said, was about 400 years old according to locals.
“Locals told us they have never witnessed a case like this one before,” said Sunguti.
Mbandu, a father of three, succumbed to his injuries on October 23 after showing some significant improvement.
Sunguti says the deceased was a very active member of the Nakuru Catholic Diocese and had worked with the Nakuru Defluoridation Company, a department established by the church to tackle fluorosis (excess fluoride) and enhance the quality of drinking water in the region.
Mbadu also worked at Radio Amani, which was established to preach peaceful co-existence and harmonious relationships after the 2007/08 post-election violence.
Until the tragic incident, he was hosting “Tafrija ya Waumini” every Sunday at the station between 2pm and 6pm.
“I have known him for about 15 years. He was a very good, hardworking and dependable man,” says Sunguti.
A special mass was held in his honour by Bishop Muhatia last Sunday. The deceased will be buried at his home in Mumias on November 9.