What you need to know:
- One man left his family watching the evening news to heed to a call by his friend to scoop fuel from the tanker.
- Another one, a boda boda rider, only survived because he had rushed back to his house to get a jerry can.
They toyed with death and survived by a whisker, 13 others were not as lucky. Survivors of the fuel tanker accident in Gem that left 31 people nursing serious burns recounted their ordeal from their hospital beds at the Yala sub-county hospital yesterday.
Though they barely escaped the grim reaper, they will forever bear the scars of the tragedy that has thrown Malanga village into mourning.
Writhing in pain, a boy narrated how he was woken up by his mother to rush to the scene and find out what was going on.
As he headed there in the company of other villagers, they met others running back with jerry cans full of fuel.
“We met many people coming back with jerry cans of fuel. We fetched containers to also help ourselves with the free fuel but when we had just joined the scramble, the vehicle exploded,” said the boy.
Caught in the worst situation ever, he struggled to remove his pair of trousers that had caught fire as he fought for his dear life.
In one ward, two cousins sharing a bed were covered by a cradle to improve ventilation. Hesbone Oduor said he heard people screaming after the collision, which was normal due to frequencies of such accidents along the busy highway.
“We rushed to the scene with other neighbours and started scooping fuel. I had managed one side before the second attempt to open the valve led to the explosion,” said Mr Oduor, whose house is next to the road.
Mr Raymond Otieno had followed Mr Omondi to the scene but said he was not scooping fuel but was only a victim of circumstances who was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Mr James Omollo Oketch revealed how he made a wrong judgment that is likely to leave him with scars for the rest of his life.
He left his family watching the evening news to heed to a call by his friend to scoop fuel from the tanker.
“I had already gone to bed and left my family watching the news when numerous calls by my friends drove me to the scene for a share of fuel. I tried to run away from the explosion but I wasn’t fast enough,” said Mr Omollo, who suffered burns on his limbs and the lower side of the body.
Mr Paul Manasseh, a boda boda rider, only survived because he had rushed back to his house to get a jerry can.
“I had just gone home to bring my jerry can, when I had a loud bang followed by a ball of fire and people screaming, running towards the maize plantations as they called for help,” said Mr Manasseh.
It’s at this point that he mobilised other riders and started helping the injured. They rushed some of the victims to the nearest health centres while some were taken to the county referral hospital.
“It was a terrible scene. There was a pregnant woman siphoning fuel while another had her child on her back. They all perished in the fire,” said Mr Manasseh.
The jerry cans that had been filled with petrol fuelled the blaze because they had been hidden in the maize plantations.
“We used wheel barrows to move bodies from the scene. There were many people who perished because they were just passing by, oblivious of what was going on. I am happy with the way people worked together to save lives,” said Mr Manasseh.
The 13 bodies were moved to Yala sub-county hospital while five victims were admitted.
Mr Brian Muganda, the nursing officer in charge, was been busy handling patients throughout the day.
“The five patients that are admitted here are fairly stable but since this facility cannot handle burns past 68 per cent, we transferred 19 to the county referral hospital,” said Mr Muganda.