Family of man who died in metal boiler cries foul

Caleb Otieno, who allegedly fell into a metal boiler at Thika-based Blue Nile Rolling Mills Limited on Friday afternoon.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

Mystery surrounds the circumstances under which a man was boiled to death in a horrendous tragedy at a steel factory in Thika on Friday afternoon.

Mr Caleb Otieno, 25, reportedly fell into a metal boiler at Blue Nile Rolling Mills Ltd while on duty in a horrific accident that has shocked his workmates, family and friends.

It’s still unclear how Mr Otieno ended up in the boiler, where his body was completely liquefied, leaving his colleagues and relatives grieving. Some of his workmates said his entire body was mixed with the boiler’s contents.

Mr Otieno’s family yesterday alleged that their loved one was thrown into the boiler, although some relatives questioned the company’s safety standards.

“The company is not willing to tell us what happened or own up and take responsibility as our brother died within their factory. His colleagues told us that he died after he fell into a boiler. Nothing official has come from his employer,” said Mr John Agwambo, a brother.

Blue Nile Rolling Mills Ltd is a sister company of Blue Nile Wire Products Ltd, the manufacturers of barbed wires and the two are owned by the Blue Nile Group.

Blue Nile Rolling Mills Ltd are steel manufacturers and recently announced that they had received Sh862 million from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a private lending arm of the World Bank – to expand their plant in Thika, Kiambu.

Mr Otieno left Kisumu East for Thika town nearly 10 years ago after finishing his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE). He started off as a casual labourer at consumer goods manufacturer, Bidco Africa, where he worked for three years before he got a job at Blue Nile Rolling Mills Ltd. He had worked there for seven years.

“He was a quiet man who was committed to his work. It is unfortunate that we have lost him. I am not able to comment further because the management has told us not to speak about it as the matter is under investigation by police,” said one of his co-workers.

Since Mr Otieno’s body was liquefied, the family said they would seek help from authorities to see whether the employer could empty the boiler for them to retrieve any remains for burial.

“We just want the authorities to intervene and compel the company to give us access to the boiler and see whether we can salvage anything that we can use for burial. It’s so painful,” said Mr Agwambo.

“The employees who were working with our brother have told us that he was burnt and absorbed into the metal boiler. He was completely liquefied, meaning we might not find anything,” he added.

When the Nation contacted Blue Nile Rolling Mills Ltd, an official declined to comment about the incident and referred us to the human resource department. Efforts to contact the HR department were, however, unsuccessful.

Thika DCIO Joseph Thuvi said investigations were under way. He, however, ruled out foul play and termed the incident as “an accident”.

“The matter is under investigations and preliminary investigations have shown that it was an accident and that the deceased was not thrown into a metal boiler as it is being alleged,” he said.

When the Nation contacted General Kago Funeral Home in Thika, an official said no booking of a body from the company had been made. General Kago Funeral Home is a public morgue near the steel factory.

Blue Nile launched operations in 2006 by acquiring a steel wire product manufacturing facility in Kikuyu, Kiambu County. The plant has a capacity to produce 100,000 metric tonnes of steel products and 15,700 metric tonnes of wire products.