Nothing could have prepared the pupils of St Gabriel Primary School in Mwingi, Kitui County, for the tragedy that befell them after a successful trip to Mombasa.
At least 10 pupils died when their bus was involved in an accident at Kanginga, along the Mwingi-Garissa road on Saturday night.
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The pupils, who had been escorted by three teachers and their matron, had completed their four-day educational tour and were on their way back home when tragedy struck.
The accident happened just three kilometres from Mwingi town, their destination. They were in a bus belonging to Nguutani Secondary School.
The section of the road where the 11pm accident happened is steep, narrow and has a sharp bend.
A lorry coming from the opposite direction went out of control and collided with the bus, ripping off the side. The bus rolled and landed on the side in Kanginga River.
Some pupils were hurled out of the vehicle. At least 27 suffered injuries.
In Mwingi town, parents were waiting for their children.
Vehicles belonging to the Kenya Red Cross Society, police and county government took the injured to the Mwingi Level Four Hospital, where 32 were admitted, six in a critical condition.
Eight pupils died on the spot and one at the hospital. Another one died at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), where four pupils had been transferred.
“We received four pupils at 4am. One was later transferred to Nairobi Hospital. Sadly, we lost one. We now have two. One is in a critical condition but the other one is conscious and talking,” said the acting KNH chief executive, Thomas Mutie.
Parents milled around the accident scene and the Mwingi hospital, hoping for information about what had happened.
“Please don’t tell me my son is dead, please he cannot die,” a woman only identified as Eunice wailed.
She was among those did not find their children at the hospital.
Mwingi OCPD John Nyamu said the bus had 44 passengers - 40 pupils, three teachers and a matron. Six pupils had been dropped off just before the accident, he said.
Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka were among those who visited the injured in hospital.
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“It is strange that the pupils survived the busy Mombasa road only to die when they are almost at home. It is a sad day,” Kalonzo said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta sent a message of condolence to the families saying: “It is sad that we have lost those we look to, to secure the future of our great nation.”