Likoni ferry tragedy: Faulty prow caused deaths of Mariam Kighenda, daughter

Mariam Kighenda and her daughter Amanda Mutheu

Mariam Kighenda and her daughter Amanda Mutheu who died after the car they were in plunged into the Indian Ocean in 2019.

Photo credit: File

Kenya Ferry Services senior officials Wednesday admitted that the ferry in which a woman and her daughter died after their vehicle plunged into the Indian Ocean was faulty.

An inquest into the 2019 death of Mariam Kighenda and her four-year-old daughter Amanda Mutheu heard that safety measures on the 30-year-old MV Harambee ferry were not in place.

Ms Kighenda’s vehicle, a Toyota Isis registration number KCB 289C, plunged into the ocean midstream around 6:13pm on September 29, 2019.

The accident happened six minutes after the ferry took off from the Likoni mainland for Mombasa island.

On Wednesday, two KFS officials said had the government repaired the prows of the vessel then the two would not have died. The prow is the projected part of a ferry vessel located at both ends. Its key function is to provide buoyancy for the vessel and for loading vehicles and passengers.

Last car on the line

The inquest heard the prow could have prevented Ms Kighenda’s car from reversing and plunging into the ocean. The car had been securely parked on the right hand side of the ferry and was the last car on the line.

Mr Kennedy Mukhebu, an engineer with KFS, told the inquest presided over by Mombasa Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku that the faulty prow was to blame for the accident.

“I cannot say that MV Harambee was in good condition. Its prows could not be lifted. They were just set above the water level,” said the witness.

Mr Mukhebu witnessed the accident as he was on the ferry that evening. The witness also ruled out ocean turbulence as having played a role in causing the accident. He told the inquest that he had prepared a list of the defects in the ferry that needed attention of the management.

When he took the witness stand, KFS Managing Director Bakari Gowa also confirmed to the court that the safety measures of MV Harambee were not in place.

Mr Gowa was at pains to explain why he did nothing to repair the prows after their conditions had been brought to his attention.

‘My hands are tied’

“As much as general operations of the KFS is my responsibility, my hands are tied if there are no funds. It is the engineering unit that is responsible but I take responsibility for the operations within the facility,” he added.

He also argued that most of the ferries had the mechanicals problems when he took over the management of the facility in 2016. The previous management, he said, had been aware of the challenges facing the old ferries.

Mr Gowa said that in 2015, there were a lot of ferry breakdowns that caused a lot of public outcry but when he came in, he addressed some of them.

Ms Kigenda and her daughter were pulled out of the ocean after 13 days.


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