Three revellers killed in stampede

Revellers at the Smirnoff Experience party at the Carnivore grounds, Nairobi, on Saturday before a stampede in which three youngsters were killed.

Three youngsters were killed and several others seriously injured in a stampede as the much publicised Smirnoff Experience party at the Carnivore grounds, on Saturday night, turned tragic.

A reggae musician belts out a tune at the reggae tent which had earlier collapsed before the show kicked off. It was later repaired.
Photo/Joseph Mathenge

Two of the dead were identified as MaryAnne Nyokabi, a 22-year-old veterinary student at the University of Nairobi, and a boy identified as Kavuu Marx Ndonge. The third, also male, had not been identified by yesterday evening.

All three were confirmed dead on arrival at Mater Hospital, where seven other victims were treated and discharged. One of the patients, 20-year-old Joan Nyayai, was admitted in serious condition, but by yesterday afternoon, she had stabilised.

According to Carnivore Restaurant management and the event sponsors, United Distillers and Vintners (UDV), the stampede occurred at around midnight when impatient youth tried to force their way past the gates. 

But there were conflicting reports over what exactly happened and how the deaths occurred.

Carnivore general manager Gerson Misumi said the three died while being treated at the hospital.

Mater Hospital officials confirmed that they received victims from the Carnivore incident, but three of them were dead on arrival. 

"It was at around midnight, on Saturday, when three people were brought into the hospital. By the time they were received at the hospital, they were dead and we cannot tell what exactly happened to them," Dr J. K. Ithara told Nation.

"Seven others were treated for injuries. They complained of pain, but were alright by the early morning. The youths both male and female, between the ages of 19 and 22, had injuries all over their bodies. 

"They told me that they had been injured in a stampede at the Carnivore," Dr Ithara said.

"One of the patients was in bad shape, but she is doing better and fortunately has no fractures. She suffered soft tissue injuries, which are being treated," the sister-in-charge, Ms Victoria Munene, said.

Police identified some of the injured as 19-year-olds Albert Juma and Kenneth Muriuki and 20-year-olds Robert Abande and Maxwell Mopire.

Records at City Mortuary indicated that the bodies of those who died were received between 2.30am and 3am from Carnivore. There was no reference to Mater Hospital in the mortuary records. By yesterday afternoon, only MaryAnne's relatives had identified and viewed the body at the city mortuary. 

An initial press release by the Carnivore said the incident had occurred outside the entrance to the Carnivore gardens, where the Smirnoff Experience was taking place.

Mr Misumi said the stampede occurred as "impatient youths" forced their way into the venue as security personnel were checking identity cards to ensure only those over 18 were allowed in.

"We are working with all concerned to investigate the circumstances that led to these tragic fatalities and injuries," Mr Misumi said.

A statement by UDV blamed the stampede on "aggressive individuals that were trying to push their way into the venue, thereby causing an undue rush at the entrance of the venue".

Police who had been deployed to the venue, however, said that the chaos was started by some drunken youths already inside the Carnivore grounds. A policeman had the butt of his AK-47 rifle broken as a group of drunken youths tried to snatch it.

The stampede was also blamed on a fireworks display that started just moments before the concert's star attraction – DJ Kut – was to start spinning the disks.

The fireworks lit up the dark skies as machines released clouds of smoke. Many of those who were still queuing to get inside started to push their way in.

According to Mr Misumi, it was at this point that the management ordered the gates to be opened to let people in for free and to ease the crush that had overwhelmed those manning the gates.

Some 22 people were by last night being held at the Langata Police Station. They are likely to appear in court, this morning, to be charged with being drunk and disorderly. 

Carnivore security manager Reuben Lumwaji said that 37 regular police, 24 traffic officers and 70 private security guards were hired for the event. There were three ambulances, paramedics and a doctor on the grounds, he said.

A helicopter over-fly on the venue was called off as the seething mass of excited young people pressed towards the main tent.

At the main tent, the masters of ceremony threw bandanas to the crowd forcing many of them to surge forward and try and reach for one of the scarfs.

Security personnel at the venue, who were manning the gates, protected the DJs from enthusiastic fans and kept the crowd from taking over the stage.

It was standing room only as the crowd estimated to be in excess of the 15,000 people that the event organisers had expected showed up.

A few hours earlier, the tent over an elevated stage, which was to feature reggae music caved in, forcing bouncers and security personnel at the venue to keep out the crowd until the tent was put up again.

Reports by Dominic Wabala, Claire Gatheru, Muriithi Muriuki, Fred Orido and Philip Mwaniki