Hope rises as divers spot sunken Likoni car

The officer in charge of operations for the search and retrieval of the late Mariam Kaghenda and her daughter, Colonel Lawrence Gituma (in a military uniform) explains to relatives and friends how the operations are currently going on at the shores of the Mbaraki Wharf along the Likoni ferry channel on October 09, 2019. [Gideon Maundu, Standard]

Mariam Kighenda and baby Amanda Mutheu’s grieving family hang on to renewed hope last evening after expert divers announced they had located the car in which the two drowned in on September 29.

The wreck was located in the cold and muddy seabed, 58 metres deep and trapped in a cave.

Government Spokesman Cyrus Oguna confirmed that it was the car that divers have been looking for for the last 11 days.

He added that the vehicle would be retrieved this afternoon, and family members had been psychologically prepared for this.

SEE ALSO :Let me recover their bodies, Swedish volunteer diver says

“We have been receiving a blow-by-blow account of the operation. We were shown the images and our hope has been renewed,” family spokesman Luka Mbati said.

Fresh questions

But news of the wreck being spotted has sparked fresh questions and conspiracy theories, including one yesterday that said the wreckage and corpses had already been successfully retrieved and placed in a private yard on the Likoni shore.

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And late on Tuesday, a family member told The Standard that State officials had told the grieving family to prepare to perform funeral rites, fostering hope that the South African divers who joined the recovery efforts were about to retrieve the wreckage.

However, Mr Mbati dismissed reports that the family had heard from the Government on preparing for a burial, saying these were “lies and propaganda”.

SEE ALSO :Head of Likoni salvage team explains why he kicked out private divers

Experts have, however, warned that despite Col (Rtd) Oguna’s positive report, it may take up to four days to bring the car to the surface, depending on the availability of suitable equipment, the weather and the tide.

Still, on news that after diving 56 times in the last 10 days, divers had identified a wreck they were certain was the car that plunged into the ocean, Mariam and Amanda’s family and friends broke into song and prayer.

“Praise the Lord, praise the Lord!” they shouted. They have been camping at the Likoni channel from 6am to 7pm since Mariam’s car sank.

According to Oguna, the wreck was spotted at the point where Mariam and Amanda went under.

It is not clear why initial recovery efforts skirted the area, but Oguna said the wreck was inside a cave in the middle of the channel used by ships entering or leaving the port of Mombasa.

SEE ALSO :I cry for Mariam and Amanda wasting away in the cold sea

Sea bed

He added that the search operation targeted 10 spots near the shore and in shallow waters. 

“The four spots that were remaining were more than 58 metres deep,” he said.

Oguna said the bodies of Mariam and Amanda had not been spotted inside the wreck. He added that the Government hired 3D image capturing equipment that relayed the images of the wreckage from the sea bed.

Yesterday a section of Mbaraki wharf where family members and the media have been camping for the last 10-days was cordoned off by the military.

SEE ALSO :Why Likoni recovery bid is yet to bear fruit

The operation, being led by Colonel Laurence Githuma, involves experts from the Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, Kenya Ferry Services and divers from Subsea Services of South Africa.

Two surface-marker buoys were yesterday placed above the exact point where the wreck was spotted.

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Mariam KighendaAmanda MutheuCyrus OgunaLikoni Ferry tragedySouth African divers