A village in mourning: Those we lost in the Londiani horror crash

“We are united in grief and sorrow. These deaths have numbed us all.”

These words from Mr Paul Kirui, a resident of Londiani, sum up the feeling and horror here after Friday night's accident that left 52 people dead and 32 hospitalised.

Mr Kirui is among mourners at his home in Londiani village, Kipkelion East Constituency.

Twenty of the 52 victims of the Londiani accident.

Photo credit: Family album

For him and the many others here, Friday's accident was the worst tragedy to unite them –inexplicably, but as death often does.

But this time, he feels, everything is different.

Everywhere he looks, it seems, a family is mourning the loss of a loved one.

Most of those who have died -hawkers, vegetable sellers, shopkeepers, touts - are from here and have known each other since childhood.

This one village lost at least 15 people in the tragic accident at the Londiani Junction, which claimed 52 lives.

The Nation found that other victims were from Kahorora and Kapkondoo villages in the area, while others were from United Soi in Kipsirichet, within Londiani Ward.

Paul Kirui and his wife Ruth Kirui

Paul Kirui and his wife Ruth Kirui outside their home in Kipkoiyo village in Londiani on July 3, 2023. The couple lost their son Patrick Kipkoech in the Friday Londiani accident that claimed 52 people. 

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi | Nation Media Group

A total of 14 of the victims were residents of Kedowa-Kimukul Ward, a short distance from the accident site, while others came from neighbouring counties of Narok, Nakuru, Nandi, Baringo and Bomet.

Kuresoi North MP Alfred Mutai said 13 victims were from his constituency and most of them had moved to Londiani Junction after the construction of the Mau Summit Total interchange on the Nakuru-Eldoret and Mau Summit Total-Kericho highways.

In all these neighbouring villages, families, friends and neighbours are still trying to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones from the same village, mostly traders, hawkers and touts at Londiani Junction.

For Mr Kirui, the normal hustle and bustle of the road leading to the village has been replaced by an eerie silence.

The only sounds are the footsteps of mourners arriving to comfort the family.

The people gathered here speak in hushed tones.

The locals here have generally tried to avoid the media, and it takes quite some convincing to get any of them, perhaps due to the shock of the horror that befell them.

As the people of Londiani Junction struggle to come to terms with the horrific deaths of 52 people, the village is engulfed in grief and pain.

Mr Kirui lost his second-born son, Patrick Kipkoech, who was a tout at Londiani Junction, in the accident.

According to Mr Kirui, at the time of the horrific accident, he was coming from Londiani mortuary where he had gone to view the body of a relative when he was attracted by a huge crowd that had gathered around the scene of the accident.

He said he moved closer to get a glimpse of what was happening, only to stumble on bodies still lying on the ground.

Mr Kirui said he immediately rushed home for fear that something might happen as there was an electricity pole that had fallen near a petrol station.

He says that he later learnt from his other two sons that Kipkoech was among those who died on the spot and that his body had been taken to Londiani mortuary.

"When the accident happened, it never occurred to me that my son might be among the dead. Later, I was informed that he was no more. He was the breadwinner of our family. I am old and cannot work, he was the one who took care of all our needs. My heart is broken," said the distraught father.

According to Mr Kirui, his son was planning to get married, that dream now having been cut short.

Ms Susan Kirui, Kipkoech's aunt, described him as a promising and jovial man who will be missed by the family and the community.

She said he was a sociable and kind person. "We are heartbroken, we just leave everything to God," said Susan.

A few metres away, Mr Cristopher Ruto, a father of four, lost his wife Sally Chepchirchir in the tragic accident.

Mr Ruto told the Nation that he was at home milking his cows at the time of the accident when he received a distressing call from a neighbour that his wife, a hawker at the junction, had been hit by a matatu.

He rushed to the scene and was informed that his wife had been rushed to Londiani sub-county hospital.

A wreckage of some of the vehicles involved in the Friday night Londiani Junction crash here seen at the Londiani police station. 

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

He said his wife was transferred to Kericho County Referral Hospital on Saturday but succumbed to her injuries around 11pm.

"Just like that, I have lost my dear wife. She was not only my wife but also my best friend. Death has robbed me of a great friend, always ambitious and hardworking. I will miss her and we had big dreams together. But all is well with my soul," he eulogised his wife.

Like Kipkoech, Chepchirchir was also the family's breadwinner after her husband broke his hand and was unable to do heavy work.

"She has left me with four children to take care of, one in secondary school and others in junior secondary, classes Six and Three. She was very hardworking. There is not a single day when she crossed paths with our neighbours. She used to help me a lot in providing for our needs. Now I am forced to work even though my hands are weak," said Mr Ruto in tears.

Londiani crash

Londiani Sub-County Hospital Mortuary where bodies of the Londiani Junction crash were moved to on July 1, 2023. 

Photo credit: John Njoroge I Nation Media Group

Ms Ann Chepkosgei, a trader at the junction and also a friend and neighbour of Chepchirchir, witnessed the accident.

She had crossed to the other side and left Chepchirchir to attend to a customer when the horrific crash occurred.

"When I came back after the accident, I tried to find her, but it was all in vain. I tried to call her phone, but it was switched off. I later found out that she was among those who died in hospital," she recalled.

"The scene was terrible. Sadly, I have lost a friend, she was always there for me. I could leave my goods with her and she could take care of my customers even when I was not there," she offered.

David Kosgei, not far from Mr Ruto's home, is also in mourning after losing his wife Winnie Kosgei, a trader at the centre.

Winnie had been selling tomatoes and potatoes at the site for the past five years.

Londiani crash

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua making his address when he joined friends and other leaders in comforting families of the 52 victims and survivors of the Londiani accident tragedy during inter-denominational prayers in Londiani town in Kericho County on July 4, 2023. 

Photo credit: DPCS

"I am now left with seven children, the eldest in university and others in secondary and primary schools. I am not sure how I will take care of them," he said.

It will take a long time for the residents of the accident area, which falls under Tegunot sublocation, Chepkongony, to recover from the horror of what most have described as a scene from hell.

Hellen Tonui, a mother of six, who has been running a vegetable and fruit stall at the roadside market for the past 10 years, is also among those knocked down by the ill-fated trailer. She succumbed to her injuries.

"One of the children waiting for her at home on Friday was her Class Six son and two other children in secondary schools who were on mid-term. She had been educating them from the proceeds of her business," said Joel Tonui, a relative.

Dennis Kiplangat Bett, another victim of the accident and a resident of Itoik village, Masaita location, who was a boda boda rider, had gone home on his motorbike at lunchtime on Friday and was spending time with his father and brothers.

Londiani Junction Accident

Some of the motorcycles believed to be owned by some of the victims who were killed during an accident at Londiani Junction along the Nakuru-Kericho Highway on June 30, 2023 

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

"Little did we know that it was the last time we would see him alive, as he was in good spirits. He decided to return to the Londiani Junction where he operated as the rush hour was approaching when business was brisk," said Erick Bett, his elder brother.

Mzee Benjamin Mutai and Priscillah Mutai, Dennis's parents, were informed of what had happened to their son on Saturday morning after being kept in the dark the night before due to their advanced age.

"They were too shocked and could not muster the courage to go to the nearby Londiani Sub-County Hospital mortuary to identify the body, leaving the task to their other sons and relatives," said Mr Clement Ngelechei, a relative.

Samwel Kinyanjui, a 40-year-old bricklayer and resident of Kahorora village and a father of two, was also a victim of the truck as he was waiting to pick up a visitor at his home from the main matatu stop at the scene of the accident.

"He succumbed to his injuries while being rushed to Londiani Sub County Hospital mortuary along with other victims of the accident. It is a very dark moment for us as a family," said Mr Peter Mungai, a relative.

Mr Paul Bii, a resident, said the area had witnessed many accidents since the opening of the Londiani-Muhoroni road a few years ago, but none as bad as that of Friday night.

In the Londiani accident, a truck heading from Nakuru to Kericho lost control and rammed into nine vehicles, including matatus, private cars and motorcycles, before landing in a ditch.

Before landing in the ditch, the truck crashed into vendors selling roasted maize, vegetables, cabbages and oranges at the Muhoroni turn-off on the Nakuru-Kericho highway, killing several and injuring others.

The truck's brakes reportedly failed as it plunged down the road, hitting matatus, motorcycles, hawkers, boda boda riders, touts, pedestrians and passengers before veering off the road and landing in a ditch, killing 52 people.

The trailer of the truck carrying cement was towed away from the scene at Londiani Junction on Tuesday evening.