Body of Tom Okwach retrieved from Abimbo mine seven months after getting trapped

Collapsed Mine

Rescue operations at a collapsed gold mine in Abimbo village, Siaya County, in December last year.

Photo credit: File

The body of a miner has been retrieved from Abimbo Gold Mines in Bondo, seven months after the mine caved in trapping him and nine others.

A group of 15 artisanal miners who were excavating a tunnel near the collapsed mine stumbled on Tom Okwach’s body on Sunday morning at about 2am after a search lasting 205 days.

Mr Okwach was one of the 10 miners who were trapped in the Abimbo mines on December 8 after the mine collapsed as they were digging a tunnel .

Eight of the miners were rescued while one, Enos Ong’onga, was found dead and his body was retrieved on December 5, last year.

The 15 artisanal miners had offered to carry on with search for Okwach’s body after rescue efforts by teams comprising firefighters and disaster management officials from the Siaya County government hit a snag.

The family of the miner were at one point forced to raise money by selling properties including livestock to pay for the search of the body.

Mr Fred Ogunde, an uncle to Mr Okwach confirmed to Nation.Africa that miners had finally retrieved the body of Okwach from the collapsed mine.

“They informed us early in the morning that the body of the Okwach has been retrieved and we are heading to the place to collect it for burial. This is a major step towards ensuring that the family gets closure after several months of pain and uncertainty,” said Mr Ogunde.

He added, “The family has been going through immense pain after efforts to rescue our kin or retrieve his body from the mine flopped. We will make arrangements for burial after collecting the body.”

Ms Janet Otieno Nyunja, Okwach’s sister, said the artisanal miners informed the family that they had retrieved the body on Sunday morning at about 2am.

“Our brother’s remains have been found after members of the family had spent several days in the cold, praying and hoping the rescuers would find Okwach alive,” said Ms Otieno.

She added: “It is sad that we lost him but the pain of not finding his body made matters worse for the family.”

The family had refused to heed to the calls from elders and relatives to conduct a symbolic burial ceremony by burying banana suckers to represent Okwach’s body.

“It is a nightmare that I wish to forget and move on. As a family, we could not let the body of my brother rot away in the mine. That is why we never gave up on the search,” said Steve Aliwa, a brother to the deceased.

The gold diggers were trapped almost 20 feet from the entrance of the mining chambers.

One of the survivors of the tragedy revealed he had sounded the alarm about a tremor while inside the shaft before the incident, but was dismissed as inexperienced.

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