At least 20 members of Mwingi Catholic Church choir died after the bus they were traveling in plunged into Enziu River in Mwingi East area of Kitui County on Saturday.
So far, 20 bodies have been retrieved from the bus while 10 people have been rescued and rushed to Mwingi Level Four Hospital for emergency treatment.
According to Kitui County Police Commander Leah Kithei, the 51-seater bus belonging to Mwingi Junior Seminary, a Catholic Church- run private school, was ferrying the choir members to Nuu area from Mwingi town to attend a wedding ceremony.
Ms Kithei said police were at the scene to coordinate the rescue efforts which were hampered by the raging waters.
“We are hoping to rescue as many people as we can. Sadly, we have recovered 20 bodies from the scene and 10 survivors rescued alive and rushed to Mwingi Level Four Hospital,” Ms Kithei told Nation.Africa.
A video footage of the tragedy showed the bus being swept away as it crossed the swollen river as people watched helplessly.
Screams and wailing rent the air as brave young men dived into the water to rescue passengers who were trapped in the sinking bus.
Among the passengers in the ill-fated bus were members of the bridal party, including a woman, her three children and two grandchildren.
The identities of those who drowned could not be immediately established but police confirmed that among the dead was Ms Jane Mutua, daughter to the bridegroom and three children.
Eye witness told the Nation that the bus was overloaded. The driver was under pressure to deliver the bridal group to the wedding in time.
Mr Christopher Musili, one of the choir members who survived the tragedy said the bus had 70 passengers on board.
“I am lucky to have been pulled out of the bus by the divers” said the 27 year old Mr Musili who is a boda boda operator in Mwingi town.
He said that many passengers were trapped as they attempted to get out through the bus windows. Mr Justus Musyoka, an official of Mwingi Catholic Parish who rushed to the scene upon receiving the sad news, said the driver and the passengers had disagreed on the number of people to be transported to the wedding.
“We have established that some passengers were putting pressure on the bus driver to cross the flooded river, but he insisted that he wasn’t familiar with River Enziu Bridge” Mr Musyoka said.
The spot where the bus slipped off into the river is a notorious death trap. Raging waters have swept away many vehicles.
Three years ago, bodies of four people who drowned at the same spot were recovered after three weeks of frantic search by rescue teams from the Kitui County government, Kenya Red Cross, National Youth Service and Disaster Management Unit.
A mangled wreckage of a Toyota Probox car they were travelling in was found buried in the river bed