Three forest scouts pursuing villagers suspected of cutting down trees in the Kakamega Forest drowned while attempting to cross River Isiukhu.
The incident happened on Tuesday evening in a deep section of the river, which cuts through Mukulusu village in Kakamega East sub-county.
The suspects, who were scooping sand from a section of the river, crossed safely to the opposite side.
But the scouts were swept away by the water. Locals saw the bodies of two of the scouts floating in the river.
Divers were called in from the village and helped retrieve the bodies. The divers were still searching for the third body on Wednesday.
The two bodies were taken to the Kakamega County mortuary, sub-county Police Commander Robert Makau told Nation.Africa.
Mr Makau declined to disclose the identities of the scouts, only saying the incident was being investigated.
Scouts are hired to complement patrols by guards from the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in the expansive forest, which is regularly encroached on by illegal loggers and charcoal-makers.
Villagers from Mukulusi camped near the swollen river for the second day on Wednesday as divers searched for the missing body.
KFS and KWS officers joined them and monitored the search, which was disrupted by heavy rains on Tuesday evening.
Local elders said the traditions of the Isukha community required that the retrieved bodies be left lying near the river for some time to make it easier for the divers to find the missing body.
“But when the bodies were taken to the mortuary in a hurry that could complicate the search for the missing body,” one of them told Nation.Africa.
“The search could go on for several days. Usually, when people drown and one body is recovered, the family and relatives usually camp by the river with the body until the other body is found.”