Protesting mourners block highway with casket

Mourners block Nakuru-Nairobi Highway on Thursday with a casket bearing the remains of David Gichuhi to protest rising cases of deaths along the highway. [Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

Mourners temporarily disrupted traffic flow along the busy Nakuru-Nairobi highway at Mbaruk area to protest rampant road accidents involving pedestrians.

For about half an hour, the protestors placed a coffin bearing the remains of a middle-aged man in the middle of the road causing a traffic snarl-up.

It was at this spot where the deceased and his friend who were riding on a motorcycle were killed on Thursday last week after being hit and crashed by a trailer.

David Gichuhi, 29 who was buried today died on the spot alongside his 22-year-old friend Stephen Mwatha who was buried in the same neighbourhood on Wednesday.

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The local youths had vowed to keep the casket in the middle of the highway until Government officials arrived but as emotions among members of the family ran high they changed their mind and directed the preacher to say a prayer for the highway.

“Kindly let us respect the family which is in grief. We are all in pain by the sudden loss of the two but this won’t help much today,” said one of the male relatives as the youth agreed to proceed.

David Gichuhi who was killed in a recent road accident. [Joseph Kipsang/Standard]
Gichuhi was operating a mobile money shop at Mbaruk Trading Centre which lies on both sides of the highway while Mwatha, the youth chairman at Kenya Assemblies of God (KAG) Kiungururia church had just set up an eatery.

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Mwatha’s father Njoroge Muthondu said that his son was set to join university later this year but his dreams were cut short by the tragic accident.

“I had just set up a hotel that would help him raise funds for his education at Laikipia University in September. I had also given him fees for the first term which we instead used for his funeral. He had great dreams and his death is a great pain to the entire family,” said Njoroge.

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He said that on the fateful day, the two friends had left his hotel to refuel at a nearby petrol station a kilometer away only for a freewheeling trailer to run over them.

Harrison Muiruri, a resident, said that on the same day two people were seriously injured after the lorry they were in veered off the road while avoiding a head-on collision with another vehicle.

“On Thursday morning a lorry rolled several times few metres from the other spot.  The driver and his loader sustained serious injuries and we rushed them to the hospital only for the two youths to die in the evening. The stretch has clearly become a black spot,” said Muiruri.

Mbaruk Trading Centre is located on a slight slope where most motorists after passing a police roadblock while heading towards Nairobi descend while freewheeling despite the area being populated.

According to Muiruri, nearly 15 families in the past three years have been left with scars from the highway after the death or maiming of their loved ones by a speeding vehicle.

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In November 2017, Laikipia University Nakuru Campus was indefinitely closed after students engaged the police in running battle following the death of a student who was killed in a hit and run by a motorist at the same spot.

John Wachira, another resident said that following the increase in accidents along the stretch, they have been left in fear. He said that the numbers of vehicles plying the route have increased even as population at the trading centre continues to grow.

“One can stop at the roadside for almost half an hour before getting a chance to safely cross the road. The village is growing. Children, university students, and bodaboda operators are facing the highest risk,” said Wachira.

The residents have urged the Kenya National Highway Authority (KENHA) to erect speed bumps at the trading center in a bid to reduce the speed of the motorists as they approach.

KENHA is currently looking for partners to build a dual highway in a bid to reduce the number of accidents and ease traffic jams along the route.

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KENHANakuru-Nairobi highwayMbaruk areaDavid GichuhiProtesters