Caleb Otieno, man who died in molten steel, buried in Kisumu

Caleb Otieno funeral kisumu steel plant thika boiled

Relatives and friends of Caleb Otieno pray next to the coffin carrying his remains at his home in Riat, Kisumu West Sub-County, on April 9, 2022. 

Photo credit: Angeline Ochieng | Nation Media Group

Caleb Otieno, the 35-year-old man who boiled to death in a horrendous tragedy at a steel factory in Thika last month, has been laid to rest in Kisumu.

He was buried at his home in Riat, Kisumu West Sub-County, on Saturday. 

Only pieces of bone and teeth that required DNA testing to identify him were found after the tragedy. These remains, packed in three small sacks, are what his family buried today.

Caleb Otieno funeral kisumu steel plant thika boiled

Relatives and friends of Caleb Otieno look at the coffin carrying his remains at his home in Riat, Kisumu West Sub-County, on April 9, 2022. 

Photo credit: Angeline Ochieng | Nation Media Group

At the burial ceremony, friends and family could not hide their grief as his remains lay in the casket, which remained closed. 

The mourners were only allowed to pray next to the coffin while viewing his portrait.

Caleb Otieno

Caleb Otieno, who fell into a metal boiler at Thika-based Blue Nile Rolling Mills Limited.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

Distress call

Mr Otieno's brother, Mr John Agwambo, told mourners that he learnt of his younger sibling's death through a call from his close friend.

“I received a distress call around midday on March 25, 2022, telling me to rush to the factory since my brother had been involved in an accident,” said Mr Agwambo who also lives in Thika.

On arrival, he learnt that his brother had died after accidentally falling into a steel boiler where his body was still trapped. He was advised to wait for the boiler to cool down before his remains could be retrieved. The company’s operations were temporarily halted following the incident.

Two days later, his parents arrived from Kisumu accompanied by relatives and the process of retrieving his remains began.

"Unfortunately, his body was completely molten with only a few bones, ashes and teeth which were packed in three sacks and preserved at General Kago Funeral Home in Thika,” he said.

Mourners and family members questioned the safety of the company where the deceased had been working for the last seven years.

"If the company had taken care of the safety precautions, our son would not have met his death in such a painful manner," said his father Mr Martin Oraro.

Compensation

His relatives recently rejected the compensation offered by Blue Nile Rolling Mills Ltd, where the incident happened, with top lawyers and human resource consultants expressing outrage over a Sh420,000 payout that the firm offered the family. 

For instance, lawyer Donald Kipkorir said Otieno’s family should not accept anything less than Sh20 million as compensation.

“The compensation sum family of Caleb Otieno who died a horrible death in Blue Nile Rolling Mills, Thika, ought to be paid under Law Reform Act, Cap 26 and Fatal Accident Act, Cap 32, if Otieno worked up to 60 years is: Sh21,000=x12x1/3x35=Sh2,940,00,” Mr Kipkorir said.

Otieno's father, Martin Oraro, 74, previously said he was stunned that despite the family’s grief, and the pain of not even having a body for closure, his son’s employer would place such a paltry price on his son’s life.

“After I was informed my son had died, I travelled all the way from Kisumu to Thika. I met the management of the company where my son was working. I was accompanied by my family members and in the meeting was the human resources manager of the company, the managing director, and the Thika DCIO Joseph Thuvi.

“The company offered me Sh100,000, and when I asked them about the compensation, the HR manager told me that they would compensate me with a third of Sh21,000 that my son was earning per month for the five years he worked as a permanent employee. That is the last thing I heard from the company,'' Mr Oraro said.

''They told me this would translate to Sh7,000 per month. When my other son, John Agwambo, did the calculations, we realised the compensation would be Sh420,000 for all the five years he worked there as a permanent employee, yet it is safety negligence at the company that made my son die. We felt ridiculed and denied justice,'' Mr Oraro added.

Otieno had worked for the company for seven years, with five of them as a permanent employee.

Blue Nile Rolling Mills Ltd is a sister company of Blue Nile Wire Products Ltd, the manufacturer of barbed wire, and the two companies are owned and managed by Blue Nile Group.

Additional reporting by Simon Ciuri

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