How Nithi bridge bus crash victim's death added to family's misfortunes
On Sunday, July 24, Purity Ngaita left her home in Mugua village, Tigania East, a happy woman. She bought her mother a goat and promised to buy a cow for the family and build her a permanent house when she returned from holiday in December.
But on this late afternoon, her brother Edward Kobia welcomes us into this humble home of two tiny shacks with a heavy heart. Ms Ngaita and her German husband, who was to take her for holiday in Europe, are no more.
They perished in the Modern Coast Nithi bridge accident alongside 36 other passengers as they travelled back to Mombasa.
She was buried on Wednesday this week in a brief solemn ceremony – no flowers, no cross, just a grave marked with tree branches amid tea bushes. With her death, Ms Ngaita went with the family’s hopes of a better life.
The family says they had not been told whether Ms Ngaita’s husband, whom Mr Kobia says they knew only by one name – Mr Frank – was buried and where.
It was the couple’s first visit to Meru together after they tied the knot earlier this year, and they hoped to travel to Germany, where Ms Ngaita would be introduced to Mr Frank’s family.
Mr Kobia gazes at the grave, probably contemplating their dreams buried underneath, and tells us the family has had a streak of misfortunes over the past three years that started with the death of their father, Mr David Kirianki, in October 2019.
“My father used to receive tea bonus payments of between Sh15,000 and Sh20,000 each year. Thugs raided his house and demanded money that he did not have. They hacked him to death,” he said.
“It was raining heavily and because our mother is deaf, she did not hear the commotion from a nearby house. She escaped death by a whisker because by the time they went to her house we were there and they took off.”
Pillar of family
He reported the matter to police but because he did not have money to follow up the case, no suspect was arrested, with the police saying there was no evidence linking anyone to the crime, so the matter died a natural death.
It was after the death of their father that Ms Ngaita built the small timber house for their mother, he says.
Nearly a year later, in June 2020, his younger brother Zacharia Muika, who was 25 years old, died after a short illness.
Mr Kobia says he started complaining of headaches and stomachache. He was taken to a hospital but died a week later.
“We cannot understand why this is happening to us. But while we lost our father and brother, Purity's death has robbed us of a sister who was the pillar of this family. We relied on her to provide for our mother and my two other siblings,” says the father of two.
Mr Kobia is now the head of the family that relies on the few tea bushes on their one-acre land, earning about Sh2,000 in a good month.
His sister, Ms Eunice Kanario, says every time she called Ms Ngaita to tell her their mother, Ms Anastasia Nyoroka, needed something, she provided.
“Purity would always tell me, 'just a minute sis', and within moments send us some money,” she says.
On the fateful day, the family escorted Ms Ngaita and her husband to Meru town, some 40kms away, to board the bus.
Ms Kanario says the couple were in high spirits as they showered them with gifts. They also had lunch together and Mr Frank promised to visit them later in the year.
“It was a shock to us because we were informed of the accident about one hour after we arrived back home. We tried calling her but the phone had been switched off, so we travelled to Chuka hospital, where survivors were rushed for treatment, only to receive the bad news,” says Ms Kanario.
Ms Ngaita’s eulogy said she dropped out of school at Standard Six. But according to the family, at 36, she still hoped to go back to school and was attending language lessons in Mombasa in preparation for her trip to Germany.
“She told me her dream was to study, get a job abroad and get us out of this poverty. We have lost the star of our family and it'll take a miracle to get out of these problems. But we believe God is watching over us,” Ms Kanario says, tears welling in her eyes.
Rely on goodwill
Ms Ngaita left a son, Andrew Muchui, 15, who is in Form One.
Regarding any inheritance, Mr Kobia says they have no clue and that they would rely on the goodwill of Mr Frank’s family.
“I don't even know his other name and we have little information about his family. He was paying Andrew’s school fees and if they get in touch with us we will appreciate their help,” he says.
Ms Ngaita’s friend, Ms Jane Gacheri, who attended the burial, says that before she moved to Mombasa more than 10 years ago, Ms Ngaita had lived in Nanyuki briefly and the two ran small businesses.
“She was an industrious and loving woman and we will miss her. When she got married recently she promised to visit me in Nanyuki after their tour abroad. It was so shocking that instead of the visit I came to bury her,” Ms Gacheri says.