Driver recalls how ‘party on the wheels" turned his life upside down

Party on wheels bus

The wreckage of the 'Party on Wheels' bus at the Subuiga police station in this photo taken on November 20, 2022

Photo credit: Gitonga Marete I Nation Media Group

The driver of a matatu that was hit by a speeding bus, split into two and tossed into the air at the Subuiga blackspot on the Meru-Nanyuki road has finally spoken about the crash.

Martin Kinyua survived with minor injuries in the October 8 accident that killed 12 people but is still traumatised. When he saw the mangled wreckage of the bus at the Subuiga Police Station, he almost ran away, he said.

The wreckage, which lies poignantly among others, is a shell of the “Party on Wheels”, the luxurious travelling mini club that offered its passengers an entertaining experience while on the move.

Before being reduced into a shell, the bus was fitted with a mini bar, DJ deck, screen monitors, a sound system and comfortable lounge seats with ample dancing space, offering unlimited entertainment as patrons enjoyed picturesque landscapes. Cans of beer are still strewn all over its floor.

Mr Kinyua said the sight of the bus 43 days after the accident sent cold chills through his body to a state of paralysis.

“I could not look at it twice. I cannot recollect what really happened but it was a miracle, God's intervention,” he told Nation.Africa. 

“It was around 5.30pm and there was a loaded truck in front that was moving at a snail's pace. Suddenly, I heard a bang on the right side of the matatu and I saw myself in the air.”

He went on: “The matatu was ripped into two and thrown over a fence and landed in a bush about 40 metres away. If I had not kept a safe distance, we would not have survived, because the impact would have thrust us under the truck.”

Mr Kinyua spoke on Sunday during this year’s celebrations to mark the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. Survivors narrated how their lives changed overnight for the worse, and begged drivers and other road users to be cautious.

The event was organised by the National Transport and Safety Authority’s (NTSA) Eastern region team, led by regional manager Dorris Sabaya and Meru county manager Mohamed Khamsin.

The celebrations brought together other stakeholders, including the Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha), Kenya Rural Roads Authority (Kerra), the Red Cross and the traffic police.

Road accident

John Murithi, who was involved in a road accident at the Nithi bridge in September last year, another blackspot in Tharaka Nithi County, said the matatu carrying them was speeding.

“It was during Covid-19 restrictions and the driver was in a hurry to reach Nairobi before 6pm. I suffered a spinal injury that confined me to a wheelchair, but I was among three people who survived because we were wearing safety belts. I urge travellers to always ensure they buckle up,” he said.

Relatives of victims also spoke of “lives turned upside down” after their family members were involved in accidents, and implored those affected to lessen the burden of victims by offering moral support.

Meru High Court Presiding Judge Justice Edward Muriithi said owing to delays in deciding cases involving road accidents, the Judiciary would set up a division in Meru and Isiolo to expedite such matters.

“The courts will specifically deal with traffic compensation cases so that awards are dealt with quickly. We should not have cases dragging on for over five years while victims suffer,” Justice Muriithi said, imploring accident witnesses to volunteer and testify.

Earlier, Ms Faith Kananu narrated how in 1998, aged 10, she was involved in a road accident that left her left side paralysed. She has never been compensated for the loss.

Justice Muriithi lamented that Kenya’s insurance law on third party risk that capped compensation at Sh3 million should be amended to increase the limit.

“The reality is that due to inflation and devaluation of the Kenya shilling, there are claims that exceed this limit and we should have it increased to say Sh7.5 million or any other amount that the economy can accommodate,” he said.

Ms Sabaya said the NTSA would collaborate with other agencies to ensure road users observed safety at all times. She said as of October, more than 18,000 accidents had been recorded, with over 4,000 fatalities nationally, while in Meru, 140 fatal accidents were recorded.

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