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Families tell fond memories of boys who drowned in Kwale as service set for Wednesday

By Francis Ngige | August 19th 2015
A shocked Ann Kanini, 98 (third from left) being consoled by relatives and neighbours at her home in Kimunye village, Kirinyaga County Tuesday, following the tragic death of her grandson Derick Gatimu in the Indian Ocean. [PHOTO: MUNENE KAMAU/STANDARD]

MURANG’A: As the burial of the seven pupils of a Murang’a school, who drowned in the Indian Ocean last week, draws near, their families have spoken fondly of them.

A requiem mass will be held this morning at St Mary’s Cathedral Church to be presided over by Catholic Diocese of Murang’a Bishop James Maria Wainaina. The bodies will then be released to the families.

Although it is more than a week since their loved ones departed in the most unusual way, the families are still trying to come to terms with the tragic event at Diani beach in Kwale.

The hopes of the young souls were dimmed by high tidal waves of the ocean they were supposed to have fun in.

How the world can change in the blink of an eye? That is the question that lingered in the minds of Nahashon Njuguna Muiruri and his wife Mary Wambui after learning of the death of their last-born son Cyrus Muriu.

What they hoped would have been a joyful reunion with their son after an eventful excursion at the Coast, has turned out to be the worst days of their lives.

The couple was waiting for their 14-year-old son to return from the sandy beaches of Kwale for a belated birthday but will now receive his remains in a casket.

Life has now been turned upside down for the couple that has now only one other son.

For the first time, his tearful mother narrated Tuesday, she felt compelled to wish him a happy birthday on July 17 by visiting him at St Martins Boarding School.

The family had great birthday plans for their son whom they hoped was to return home on Saturday, a week after they bade him farewell as he headed for the trip that turned tragic.

“I can remember how he was excited seeing me in school unexpectedly just to wish him a happy birthday. The school is so strict that you don’t visit your son anyhow but this time I was allowed. Little did I know that this would be the last birthday I was wishing him,” the mother told The Standard at Gituto Secondary in Murang’a where she is the deputy principal.

She said her world was shattered when she received that dreadful call at 8.30pm confirming that her son was among the seven pupils who had downed in the Indian Ocean.

And Mr Muiruri described Muriu as “family baby boy who made everyone happy with his witty charms.”

Paying tribute to his “handsome, loving and kind son” Muiruri, the head teacher at Gatumbi Primary School in Kigumo said his son was looking forward to sitting the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) at the end of the year and had a target of 400 marks.

“We had promised him Sh5,000 if he reached the mark and he had the push to do so when he realised that we had fulfilled the promise of awarding his elder brother with Sh10,000 after he got an impressive B+ in KCSE,” the mother said.

Their eldest son Stephen Muiruri is a first year Bachelor of Science student at Kisii University.

Muriu joined St Martins Boarding Primary School last year in Class Seven having transferred from Kahuro Brilliant Academy in Kiharu.

According to results from the school, the boy was among the top performers in classwork with the second term examination results indicating he had obtained 351 marks out of the possible 500.

Another family, face wrought with pain, finds it difficult to comprehend why the world has been so cruel.

Having lost a daughter three years ago, now their first grandson who was left under their care is now gone and Zaverio Nduire and his wife Rosemary Nduire can hardly bear it.

Their grandson, who was under the scholarship of the Catholic Church at St Martin Boarding Primary School in Mugoiri, had a dream of becoming a neurosurgeon but it was cut short by the cruel hand of death.

Julius Peter Kariuki had just turned 15 and was among the best performing pupils at the school and the grandparents hoped he would be among the top performers in the national examination.

And a 35-second video clip of his grandson reciting a love poem just a month before he met his untimely death is what Nduire has in memory of him.

Just last month, the grandparents had visited the school, some five kilometres away from their home, for the prize-giving day, where the boy was awarded for his exemplary performance.

“In fact, we are yet to unwrap some of the gifts he was given during that day. We were waiting for him to come and open them but this will not happen,” the grandfather said as he showed us some of the gifts wrapped in shiny paper bags.

Kariuki was admitted to St Martins School from the nearby Gatundu Primary School after the church agreed to sponsor him, being an orphan but a bright boy.

He did not disappoint in his academics and was among the top five in Murang’a County mock examination with an impressive 410 marks.

“We had difficulty in raising the Sh8,500 that he needed for the trip but it was a lifetime opportunity that we would have wanted to bypass him,” said the man at his home.

But it is the news that his grandson had died in the ocean that has devastated him.

“Although it is fate and the will of God, the boy never talked about swimming and I would not have expected him near the ocean. But what can we do, it has happened,” said Nduire.

“As is routine after a long day's work, I retired to my house and on switching my television set, the KTN screen displayed a news alert in red indicating some seven children who were swimming in the sea could not be found,” said another elderly woman.

A sobbing Ann Kanini said upon receiving the sad news of the tragic demise of her great grandson Derrick Gatimu, she collapsed and passed out until the next day when she recovered from the shock.

“I loved my great grandson so much since he was named after my late husband and I was readying myself to host him and his two other siblings as from tomorrow as is the tradition whenever they come on holiday. Instead, I will now receive a coffin containing his lifeless body,” she said.

Kanini said her family has been hit by a series of catastrophes. Her husband died in 2012 while a granddaughter,, the mother of Gatimu, had died earlier.

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