Embakasi gas plant owner and Nema employees to be detained for 21 days following gas explosion

Embakasi gas explosion suspects at a Milimani court on Tuesday, February 06,2024. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

The court has allowed police to detain three suspects linked to Embakasi gas explosion that left six people dead and more than 300 injured.

The fourth suspect arraigned in court under miscellaneous application on Tuesday will be held by police for a period of between 10-14 days.

Milimani Senior Principal Magistrate Dolphina Alego on Wednesday allowed police to hold the suspects to complete investigations.

The suspects will remain in custody at Embakasi Police Station where they have been cooling their heels since they surrendered to police on Monday.

Those who will be in custody for 21 days are the owner of the gas plant Derrick Kimathi and two National Environment Management Authority (Nema) employees Marrian Kioko and Joseph Kamau.

David Ong'are, who is the fourth suspect, will be held at Capitol Hill Police Station, Nairobi.

His defense lawyers had indicated that he was sick and needed preferential treatment.

The suspects face charges of murder, conspiracy to commit a felony, negligent act and abuse of office.

Alego ordered the accused to be presented in court on Wednesday for her to rule on the period that police can hold them before preferring charges.

The State made an application in court on Tuesday to hold the suspects through Chief Inspector of Police, Isack Tenei.

Tenei told the court that the suspects were arrested on diverse dates between February 4 and 5 after they went into hiding following the disaster.

He said that he had to publicize their pictures, prompting them to report at Embakasi Police Station.

The investigator said he also needed to ensure the safety of the accused while detaining them because the incident was of national interest.

"At the time the incident happened on the night of February 1 and 2 many people were asleep. Apart from the six deaths, many people were injured and admitted in various hospitals in the city and its environs," said Tenei.

In his affidavit, which he presented in person in court under the guidance of the lead prosecutor James Gachoka, he said that he wanted to record statements from other witnesses who were injured and admitted to hospital.

Tenei told the court that some of the witnesses were terrified by the incident and ran away.

"Your honor the 21 days we are seeking is to enable us complete all the investigations. At the scene, some bodies were burnt beyond recognition and we need to get their relatives, do DNA analysis on them and merge them together," said the lead investigator.

Tenei disclosed that there is a likelihood of more bodies being recovered and a lot of property was destroyed including vehicles and buildings.

The investigating officer argued that releasing the suspects before the conclusion of investigations may cause public disturbance and outcry.

He said that after the investigations, their files will be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for approval of the charges.

Tenei asked the magistrate not to release the suspects on cash bail or bond.

The defense lawyers, Karathe Wandugi, Duncan O`Kubasu, Kavita Mwanzia and Charles Madowo, told the court that the investigating officer did not inform them on Monday night that he would be taking their clients to court to take a plea.

They claimed that the action of taking the suspects to court without informing the defense team was meant to frustrate the suspects.

The defense team differed with Tenei's version that the suspects were arrested claiming that the suspects presented themselves at the police station.

"Are you aware that the third respondent was away abroad when the incident happened and has a medical condition where we asked you to book him at a different station which is a bit better than Embakasi Police Station and you refused," lawyer Mwanzia responded to Tenei.

The arrest and arraignment of the four suspects followed orders from President William Ruto who condemned the incident and called for swift action.

Those working for Nema have since been suspended from their jobs.

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