She called minutes to accident, husband of ferry victim recalls

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019 09:00 |

By Reuben Mwambingu and Harrison Kivisu

Sadness clouds John Wambua’s face every time he recalls the viral video that captured his wife Mariam Kigenda and their four-year-old daughter, Amanda Mutheu, calling for help through their vehicle’s windows as the car bobbed afloat for some minutes before sinking in the sea.

This was the painful last moments of Kighenda and her daughter, moments after their vehicle plunged in the sea at the Likoni Ferry channel.

What makes the whole incident difficult to come to terms with for Wambua is that, just about half an hour earlier, his wife had called to notify him that she was about to cross the ferry from the mainland.

“She had visited our farm in Kwale and I was expecting her back on Sunday. Shortly after 6pm, she called to tell me that she was on her way back and she was, in fact, about to cross.

But at around 6.40pm, I scanned my Twitter and saw breaking news about a Likoni ferry mishap in which a vehicle had plunged into the ocean.

I was shocked and called my wife but I couldn’t reach her,” said a teary Wambua.

Minutes later, a WhatsApp message from Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) confirmed his worst fears: the vehicle was a Toyota ISIS registration number KCB 289C in which his wife and daughter were travelling in.

Ferry users who witnessed the incident say the vehicle, which was at the rear end side of the island bound MV Harambee Ferry, reversed and plunged into the ocean while the ferry was midstream.

The witnesses said the vehicle occupants could be seen waving and yelling for help through the vehicle’s windows as the car floated for some minutes before sinking.

According to the Likoni OCPD Benjamin Rotich, the vehicle’s breaks failed and reversed just before the ferry docked.

Family members and friends believe the time in which the vehicle stayed afloat before it sunk was enough for the concerned authorities to marshal support to rescue the victims, and put the blame on KFS and the Kenya Navy for what they say was sheer negligence.

“It pains to even imagine that lives were lost in these very waters where the Kenya Navy are making minute by minute patrols in preparation for Mashujaa Day which is almost a month away,” said Sheila Karembo, a family friend.

Coast regional coordinator John Elungata yesterday said the KFS Managing Director Bakari Gowa should carry responsibility for the Sunday accident.

“The ferry itself is old and its doors could not close. The ferry management should take responsibility because this is a matter of public safety,” said Elungata during a media briefing at his office.

He said operations to retrieve bodies have been delayed by lack of equipment to retrieve the car from the sea. 

The government, he said, had sourced diving equipment from a South African company. 

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