Steel plant death: Lawyers jostling to take on case, family reveals

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

What you need to know:

  • Relatives said they would only take action once they had laid Mr Otieno to rest.
  • Mourners and family members questioned the state of safety at the company where he had been working for the last seven years.
  • Blue Nile Rolling Mills Ltd and the family are yet to reach a compensation deal. 

Several lawyers have approached the family of Caleb Otieno, the 35-year-old man who boiled to death in a horrendous tragedy at a steel factory in Thika, his relatives have revealed. 

Speaking at his burial in Kisumu on Saturday, his brother John Agwambo told mourners that a number of lawyers had expressed interest in taking the case to court on their behalf.

However, he said the family would only take action once they had laid Mr Otieno to rest

“We decided to pay our brother his last respect first before proceeding with the court case. We hope that justice will prevail,” he said.

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
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

Mr 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 state of safety at 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.

Former President of the Law Society of Kenya Nelson Havi also argues that although no amount of money can replace a life, Otieno’s employer had an obligation to ensure the safety of its employees and the family should be compensated well.

“Compensation for wrongful death of a youthful working male adult cannot be less than Sh20 million. Blue Nile Rolling Mills Ltd must have insurance on this risk. Let them pay Caleb Otieno’s family,” said Mr Havi.

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.

Blue Nile Rolling Mills Ltd and the family are yet to reach a compensation deal, even as relatives pointed out that the company is yet to settle some of the expenses incurred for the funeral.

Previously, when the Nation tried to contact the firm for a comment, an official at the company, identified as Mr Vasu Patel, declined to speak on the incident and referred us to the Human Resource department.

Mr Otieno moved to Thika in 2012 after his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and secured a job with Bidco Oil Refinery until 2015.

He later joined Blue Nile Rolling Mills in Thika where he worked until his demise.

Additional report by Simon Ciuri

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