The driver of a 14-seater matatu that killed 11 people in an accident at Ngata in Nakuru on November 6, 2023, had warned his family to return home early for Christmas to avoid the spike in accidents that often occur during the festive season.
James Mutende, 64, a driver with over 40 years' experience, had told his family that the accidents were due to the high volume of movement as people travel for the holidays, as well as human factors.
Sadly, the father of five died in one such accident after the Farasi Sacco matatu he was driving collided with a truck at the Ngata black spot on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway at 3am.
His family identified his body at the Nakuru Teaching and Referral Hospital mortuary on Tuesday.
Family spokesperson Rufus Simiyu, who is Mr Mutende's nephew, said they had to leave their home in Kitale for Nakuru to identify the body.
Mr Simiyu said Mr Mutende had over 40 years of driving experience, having worked for Kenya Railways before joining the matatu sector.
He described the deceased as a peaceful, soft-spoken man who was a key figure in the family.
Ferry it home
“The last time we spoke, he advised me to tell other family members to come home early for Christmas after warning of the dangers of travelling during the festive season... Once we conduct a post-mortem, we shall ferry it home to Tongaren,” said Mr Simiyu.
Mr Mutende's last born son, Moses Barasa Mutende, said he got the news of his father's death from his colleagues.
Mr Barasa, a police officer, said he was on duty at Mudete police station when he heard about the tragic accident on social media.
“When I learnt that the vehicle belonged to the Sacco where my father worked, I got a little worried and prayed he was safe... I received a call from his office informing me of his [death],” said Mr Barasa.
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Mr Barasa said he last spoke to his father last week, a phone call that lasted more than 20 minutes.
“I have lost a friend and a father to whom I owe my life to. He educated me to university level and helped me secure a chance at the National Police Service and it pains me to know that he is no more,” said Mr Barasa.
Eight people died on the spot, while three others people were pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Three others were admitted and are receiving treatment.
Nakuru County Police Commander Samuel Ndanyi said the driver of the lorry lost control of the vehicle and veered off the road, colliding with the oncoming matatu.
The lorry driver fled the scene after the accident and is yet to be traced.