Parents’ pain and horror at city mortuary

What you need to know:

  • Chief pathologist says 48 victims are accounted for while 46 are being examined.
  • Parents have to go through the horror of physically examining more than 100 bodies.

The family of Monica Ngwasi Mutinda, a student at Garissa University College, is clinging to the hope that their daughter is alive even though her whereabouts are unknown.

She is among some of the 142 students feared to have died in an Al-Shabaab attack on Thursday last week, whose remains have not been identified.

Her father Peter Kithome spent the better part of Monday checking the teeth of all female victims, looking for a unique dental marker which he hopes will help identify his daughter.

“It was the most harrowing experience, opening the mouths of all the dead bodies in the mortuary trying to establish if any of them could be that of my daughter,” said the traumatised father.

Just like himself, Mr Kithome said, Monica does not have normal teeth. “Instead of the normal four incisors on the lower jaw, she has three just like me. This is what I was looking for,” he said, opening his mouth to display his unusual teeth.

Mr Kithome said he works in Mombasa and last saw his daughter two years ago when she joined university for a Bachelor of Commerce (Finance option). But they spoke often by phone.

“Every time my daughter was home in Mutomo, Kitui County, I was away at work. That’s why we have not seen each other all this time.

“I came when we heard the news of the attack on the university. Since then we have been through all the health facilities where injured students were taken including Moi Forces Memorial and Kenyatta National Hospital,” said Mr Kithome, who was among hundreds of parents and relatives who had gathered at the mortuary.

He said Chiromo Mortuary was their last port of call after it also emerged that she was not among the survivors who were taken to their homes. The girl’s mother travelled to Garissa on Thursday to follow up leads on the whereabouts of students said to have escaped.

Mr Kithome said the family has heard that there are some students who managed to escape and were not among those who were escorted home.

“At Nyayo Stadium, we talked to one of the survivors who claimed to have been Monica’s classmate and told us that she was among the group that managed to escape,” he said.

Monica, who scored grade B in her KCSE exam, was among the first lot of students selected to join Garissa University College.

DISFIGURED

For Mr Charles Kabura, identifying the body of his 25-year-old cousin, James Ochode, has been long and horrible. Some bodies are disfigured beyond recognition.

“We came to identify the body of my cousin by looking at his toes but most of the bodies were terribly disfigured,” Mr Kabura said at Chiromo Mortuary on Monday.

They managed to identify Ochode, a second year Bachelor of Administration student.

The family, from Kitale in Trans Nzoia County, has been camping at Chiromo since Friday.

It is not clear why relatives are going through the horror of physically examining more than 100 bodies while DNA testing services are widely available and take only two days.

Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said they were trying to identify the victims using finger prints from the database at the National Registration Bureau.

Mr Johansen Oduor, the chief government pathologist, said using fingerprints and positive identification by relatives, 48 victims are accounted for and 46 are being examined.

“We had a lot of difficulties in identifying the body of my granddaughter,” said Mr Wilfred Toroitich.

His granddaughter, Romana Chelgut, was a second year Bachelor of Commerce student. The family comes from Burnt Forest in Uasin Gishu County.

Most parents are lamenting the condition of the bodies will deteriorate further if the government does not act quickly and find better ways of storing them.

Nairobi has many mortuaries and it is not clear why the bodies are all taken to Chiromo, which has a capacity of only 120. City Mortuary can take up to 400.

One family from Nyandarua County said it had given up searching for the body of their kin.

Ayub Njau has been missing since the terror attack on Thursday and according to his brother, Mr Daniel Chege, the family has looked for him at Chiromo and Kenyatta National Hospital, in vain.

“We have given up, but we will have to wait until today for the government to release the names of the victims,” he told Nation.

Njau, 21, was a second year Business Administration student.

From Trans Nzoia County, Mr John Okodoyi was clinging to the photo of his son, Mr Obadiah Okiring and listening keenly to the names of those whose bodies have been identified.

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