Pwani University: 'We were going for success... We met death'

The Pwani University bus that collided with a van at Kayole, on the Nairobi-Naivasha highway, then overturned and landed in a ditch on March 30, 2023.

Photo credit: Kennedy Amungo I Nation Media Group

A slipper here. A bottle of water there. Blood-soaked books everywhere. Such was the horror at Kayole, the scene of the Thursday accident on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway involving a Pwani University bus and a PSV van.

The lives of 18 people tragically ended at this spot at midday. 

A journey that had started at midnight in Kilifi to Eldoret for an inter-university sports event at the University of Eldoret ended fatally and abruptly.

The debris at the scene told of a journey both the students and the passengers of the 14-seater matatu had hoped to finish well.

As the twisted wreckage was towed from the scene yesterday, it was clear that the victims suffered a painful end.

Ian Okoth, 22, a footballer, survived the accident. The student, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Philosophy degree, was still in shock a day later.

He reminisced about the tiresome preparation for the sports event and how determined the team was.

“We were going for success. We met death,” he told Nation.Africa.

“I'm grateful that I survived.”

When it was evident that the driver had no control over the brakes, he fastened his safety belt, began to pray, and quietly waited for whatever would happen when they crashed. Sadly, he did not survive the accident.

“I didn’t know it would be the end of seeing some of my colleagues who were very jovial just a few moments before,” the footballer said. "The team was in high spirits," he added.

Pwani University's administration said 120 learners, four drivers and a sports officer left the institution for the games in Eldoret.

Onlookers at the scene where a Pwani University bus collided with a van at Kayole on the Nairobi-Naivasha road.

Photo credit: Kennedy Amungo I Nation Media Group

They were in separate buses. Female volleyballers, some male volleyballers and handballers were in another bus, said Dorothy Chemos, a volleyballer.

She went on, "Male and female footballers were in the bus that had the accident."

“I only remember seeing the driver of the ill-fated bus overtaking us on the wrong side at high speed and wondering what could be happening. In the confusion of the moment, our driver slowed down as we started reaching out to our colleagues in the other bus,” the fourth-year Bachelor of Education student narrated.

“When we stopped, we saw a group of people quickly gathering ahead of us and we disembarked. We realised that the other bus  was in the ditch.”

Kenya University Students Organisation (Kuso) President Antony Manyara called upon Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen to ensure that buses for learning institutions are serviced, especially just before a long-distance journey.

“Just maybe, we would have saved the lives of these comrades,” he said.

His deputy, Tabitha Rachel, said students would be mobilised to donate blood if need be. 

"We are in solidarity with the affected students and victims and will provide assistance whenever called upon," she said.

Both the matatu and the bus were headed to Nakuru, the police said. 

The Naivasha Hospital Sub County medical superintendent Bernard Warui said a total of 16 fatalities had been recorded by Thursday evening.

"We have 86 victims from the morning accident," he told the Nation.

On Thursday evening, police dispersed Pwani University students protesting the deaths of their colleagues in an accident in Naivasha claiming the driver had complained the vehicle was not roadworthy.

The students had congregated at the university grounds in Kilifi town to mourn.

After a press briefing, they walked out of the university and demonstrated against alleged negligence by the administration.

pwani university bus accident

A Pwani University bus on the Naivasha-Nakuru highway on March 30, 2023, following a collision with a matatu.

Photo credit: Macharia Mwangi | Nation Media Group

The students said they suspected the bus had mechanical problems that led to the brake failure.

Led by Pwani University Student Association [ Pusa] President Allan Ochieng, they called on the vice chancellor, Prof Mohamed Rajab, to state the condition of the vehicle before it departed for Eldoret.

The demands by the students come even as learning was suspended from Thursday until Monday.

Addressing the press, Mr Ochieng said the sports team consisted of football, handball, hockey and volleyball players.

“A team from the university has been sent to Naivasha to assess the situation and ensure our colleagues get quality treatment. Some who survived are in the Intensive Care Unit [ICU],” he said.

Pusa Deputy President Wincate Nzinyari said it has been hard for students to accept the news about the accident and asked God to give strength to the families of the deceased.

“We want the University to tell us about the insurance cover and how the family will get compensation,” she said.

pwani university bus accident

The scene on the Naivasha-Nakuru highway, where a Pwani University bus landed in a ditch after colliding with a matatu on March 30, 2023, leaving at least 16 people dead.

Photo credit: Macharia Mwangi | Nation Media Group

Pusa Secretary-General Kelvin Nyambura called on the students and parents to be calm, adding the deaths had hit the university fraternity hard.

“We want the university to assure us of the safety of the vehicles when they leave the compound. We have learnt that the driver was complaining about the vehicle’s brakes,” he claimed.

A student, Christopher Chumo, said they got information about the accident from Twitter and news in the media. 

President William Ruto also mourned the dead students.

"Our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those who lost loved ones in the Naivasha accident involving a Pwani University bus. It's heartbreaking that some of the fatalities were young citizens with a promising future. We pray for the speedy recovery of the survivors," the President said in a Twitter post.