- Marathoner Francis Kiplagat was among five victims of Monday night's accident
- Kiplagat was in the company of the 2010 African Championship silver medallist Vincent Yator
- They were travelling back home from Nairobi after getting visas for the Paris Half Marathon
- At least six others sustained serious injuries
The athletics community is mourning the death of marathoner Francis Kiplagat, who was killed in a road accident in Kikopey, along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, on Monday night.
Mr Kiplagat was in the company of the 2010 African Championship silver medallist Vincent Yator when a trailer hit the matatu they were travelling in. Mr Yator sustained injuries.
Another athlete, Vincent Kiptoo, was also injured and immediately admitted in hospital for surgery.
The three were travelling back home from Nairobi after getting visas for the Paris Half Marathon on March 4.
The athletes had also participated in the Honolulu Marathon in the US in December, in which Yator finished third. They were keen on running in the lucrative Paris race.
Yator was first taken to Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital before he was referred to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret.
"It's a very unfortunate and sad day for us. We pray for quick recovery for the two runners who are nursing injuries," said Milcah Chemos, the Athletics Kenya athletes' representative and former world 3,000m steeplechase champion.
Rift Valley traffic boss Ziro Arome said the 9.30pm accident involved eight vehicles - five trailers, a North Rift Shuttle matatu, a Pajero and a double-cabin pick-up.
Mr Arome said the accident occurred when a Nairobi-bound trailer from Nakuru rammed into the shuttle.
"The driver of one of the trailers lost control after the brakes failed, and he hit the vehicle belonging to North Rift Shuttles."
Two matatu passengers died on spot while three died while receiving treatment.
Six other people were seriously injured and taken to St Mary’s Mission Hospital in Gilgil before they were referred to the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital for specialised treatment.
Luggage belonging to matatu passengers were strewn all over the road as Kenya Red Cross Society officials rushed to take the injured to hospital.
The bodies were taken to the Gilgil Sub-County Hospital mortuary.
Traffic police and rescuers had to cut through metal to rescue the injured from the matatu.
The accident caused a major traffic jam as shocked members of the public milled around the scene.
St Mary’s Hospital Manager Wangui Kamau said the facility received eight people, and one died while being treated. She said seven others in critical condition were referred to the Level Five Hospital.
Rift Valley Hospital Superintendent Joseph Mburu said the facility received four patients who were admitted with fractures for further examination and treatment.
“The patients were badly injured. Some were taken for surgery. They have however been stabilised and we are observing them closely,” said Dr Mburu.
The wreckage of the matatu and one of the trailers was towed to Gilgil Police Station as investigations into the accident began.
The driver of the trailer that caused the crash was said to have fled from the scene of accident.
“Police are inspecting vehicles involved in the accident to find out what happened. However, our preliminary investigations show the trailer's brakes failed,” said Arome.
He warned the police would take firm action against motorists caught flouting traffic rules.
"Those found speeding, overtaking recklessly and driving under the influence of alcohol among other offences will be punished severely," said the traffic police boss.
“Most accidents are caused by human error. We can correct this if drivers observe traffic rules. For example, they should observe signs and avoid driving while fatigued."