'I am sorry'... Last words of Naivasha crash driver before he succumbed

Hezron Odari (right) who lost his 22-year-old son, Ayub Odari during a Saturday night accident that claimed nine lives during a church ceremony at Kongoni, Naivasha on May 22, 2022. With him is Raphael Okon'go who lost his 70-year-old mother Elimelita Mocheche in the road crash

Photo credit: Macharia Mwangi I Nation Media Group

“Poleni” (I am sorry) those were the last words that the driver of the ill fated bus that collided with a sand lorry on the Maai Mahiu-Narok road uttered before he breathed his last at the Naivasha sub county referral hospital on Saturday.

And, yesterday, It was an emotion filled mass, intertwined with forlorn look faces at the Kongoni based St Elizabeth Catholic Church, St Anthony Parish in Naivasha

The Church lost six of its members among the nine dead during a road crash along the Maai Mahiu-Narok road. The three hour service led by Bishop David Kamau lacked the usual Sunday service flair.

The gloominess, coupled with the dull weather was discernible among the congregants who attended the mass prepared to condole the bereaved families  

A world encouragement from the presiding Bishop would, momentarily, lift the troubled souls, but the magnitude of the losses was telling.

Those who perished held a special place in the church and their absence was conspicuous during the mass held in the open grounds.

Michael Ouma who survived an accident that claimed nine lives in a pensive mood during a church ceremony at Kongoni, Naivasha on May 22, 2022.

Photo credit: Macharia Mwangi I Nation Media Group

Father Jude Kariuki who attended the burial ceremony in Kisii opened up about how the day’s events unfolded.

"I was the first to leave the burial site around 5:00 pm and, inwardly, I felt it was getting late. The ceremony took longer than I had anticipated so I decided to drive off," he recollected 

He invited a congregant Susan Wanjiru to travel back with her but she declined, saying that she wanted to travel back in the minibus.

Unfortunately, she was among the nine victims who perished during the night accident, said Father Kariuki.

Among those who attended the mass was 47-year- old Hezron Odari who lost his 22-year-old son, Ayub Odari.

He was supposed to travel to Kisii to pay his last respect to a friend he had known for so many years, but fell ill on the eve of the journey.

"My son offered to represent me but, as fate would have it, he was among those who died.  We last spoke before he left for the burial," said Mr Odari.

He would, occasionally, stare blankly with the weight of losing his beloved son taking a toll on him. “I had banked him to secure my future but now he is gone.” He said in a painful tone.

Seated alone and lost in trance, Raphael Okon'go lost his 70-year-old mother Elimelita Mocheche in the road crash. He is yet to come to terms with the sudden demise.

"She was my mentor...my role model and motivator. I looked up upon her for homely advice," said the grieving son.

Prior to the journey, his mother called him, saying she needed to see him, but the two kept rescheduling their meeting date due to their tight engagements.

"She died without disclosing what she wanted. I can figure out what she really wanted to say to me, but having died on the spot during the crash I will never know what was on her mind,”  said a distraught Mr Okon'go.

For Samuel Kanyeki who lost his wife Susan Kanyeki, his intuition saved their only daughter aged one. "She wanted to go with our last born daughter but I felt the journey would be hectic for the young one,” he said, fighting back tears.

Looking at the ring on his finger, they recently solemnized their marriage, having wedded customary in 1996. The joyous occasion has turned into anguish. Mr Kanyeki is yet to come to terms with the loss of his spouse.

“She operated a boutique at the Kongoni trading center where she supplemented the family income. Her death is a big blow,” said Mr Kanyeki.

David Kamau lost his cousin Alex Mbugua, a boda boda operator in the accident. The two had not talked for a while and he was not aware that he had travelled.

“I was informed by his friend that he had traveled and when I went to the morgue, my worst fears were confirmed,” he said.

A survivor Michael Ouma attributed his miraculous escape to God. “I cannot tell how the accident happened. Most of us in the vehicle were dozy and were awoken by the impact,” he recounted.

He suffered bruises on the face and also had a deep cut on his right leg and was walking with a limp. After the services, curious church goers milled around him eager to get a firsthand account of what transpired.

The church will hold a joint burial preparation ceremony, with a committee being formed to spearhead the process.

At Kongoni, gloom hung over the drowsy trading center. Most of the shops were closed, with small groups, discussing in low tones in the periphery.

They were yet to come to terms with the tragedy.  Those who passed on included Ayub Ondari, Maureen Nekesa, Irene Mueni, Imelda Mocheche, Teresiah Gichuru, Susan Wanjiru,Alex Mbugua, Augustine Okelo and Lydia Ondari.

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