Lethal brew kills six, leaves five blind in Kirinyaga County

Killer brew

Some of the victims who lost their sights after consuming illicit brew in Kangai village, Kirinyaga County.

Photo credit: Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • The deadly brew is suspected to have been laced with toxic chemicals.
  • The five who lost their eyesight Are being treated at Njegas Health Center.

Six people died and five others lost their eyesight on Tuesday in Kangai village, Kirinyaga County, after consuming an illicit brew believed to be laced with toxic chemicals.

The revelers entered a local bar on Monday night and ordered the drink.

They enjoyed their drink while chatting, took as much as they could of the "strong" buzz, and left for their respective homes.

However, early on Tuesday morning, the victims started complaining of stomach pains and vomiting.

Six die, several temporarily blinded after consuming illicit brew

Five of the victims died at home in the afternoon while the sixth lost his life on arrival at Kerugoya Referral Hospital where he had been rushed by relatives.

According to county officials, the bar that sold the deadly liquor was unlicensed.

County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Sports, Culture and Social Services Dennis Muciimi said the County Liquor Licensing Committee had rejected the bar's application for a license in December last year. 

The brew is suspected to have been spiked with ethanol.

Mr Muciimi said the bar's license application was rejected based on allegations of selling illegal brew, insecurity and poor sanitation. 

"This particular outlet was operating illegally, it was not licensed by the county government because it did not comply with the County Alcoholic Beverages Control Act No. 3 of 2014 and all the necessary regulations," Mr Muciimi said.

He said the county has a strict liquor licensing system that is meant to protect consumers of alcoholic beverages by ensuring fair and ethical business practices in the production, distribution, promotion, and sale of alcoholic beverages.

The County Executive Committee member for Health, George Karoki, said the five who lost their eyesight were being treated at Njegas Health Center.

Mr Karoki said the victims were brought to the hospital with symptoms of blurred vision, which is an indication of cirrhosis and other nervous system problems. 

"We suspect that they may have consumed an illicit brew with high content of ethanol, we know very well that this type of chemical causes problems in the liver," Mr Karoki said.

He said among the deceased was a patient who was rushed to Kerugoya County Referral Hospital but died on arrival. The rest of the victims were said to have died at home.

"We have other unconfirmed reports from relatives of people who died at home and were taken directly to the mortuary," Mr Karoki added.

Mwea West Deputy County Commissioner Teresia Wanjiku said the owner of the bar had been arrested and taken to court on several occasions for selling illicit brew and operating an unlicensed liquor outlet, only to be released for lack of sufficient evidence.

Ms Wanjiku said police efforts to close down the bar have been frustrated by the court and the bar owner, who is on the run.

"We have arrested and tried the owner of this bar almost 10 times and were planning to transfer our cases from the Baricho courts to Wang'uru because the suspect always seems to get a favorable verdict," she said.