Private diver Musa Sila, Mariam Kighenda and John Wambua [Photo: Maarufu Mohammed]

The private divers hired by the family of the woman and daughter whose car plunged in the Indian Ocean have withdrawn from the search and recovery operation.

Yesterday, the Kenya Rescue Divers, who were hired to retrieve the bodies of Mariam Kighenda and her daughter Amanda Mutheu, said they could not continue with the search operation following harassment by the security team they were working with.

Musa Owaga, who was leading the team of 15, said they withdrew from the operation after Colonel Lawrence Gituma kicked him out. Col Gituma of the Kenya Navy is heading the operation to retrieve the bodies. He accused the Owaga team of refusing to follow security regulations. 

“We need everyone to follow the rules we issued strictly. Musa defied orders to adhere to the rules,” he said. 

Gituma said the ongoing operation can only be conducted in a manner that it does not endanger life. He said the search and recovery operations are being carried out by a multi-agency team of 13 different entities under one command. 

He said Owaga and his crew were against the set rules and were posing danger to others involved in the operation. 

Kighenda and Amanda drowned on Sunday after their vehicle rolled into the Indian Ocean from a moving ferry. 

Police restrain Coast Private Diver Musa Sila.[Photo: Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

Owaga said they opted out on Thursday after the security team briefly threw him out of the operations on Wednesday before Kenya Ferry Services chairman Dan Mwazo intervened. 

Owaga was arrested by Likoni OCPD Benjamin Rotich but returned to the channel after Mwazo allowed him to continue with the work. 

“We are not pleased with the harassment by the security team. We have taken a break and we don’t know when we are we going to resume,’’ he said. 

On Wednesday, his boat was towed by Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) officials to the beach where the police were waiting for them. 

Down payment

The family had given the divers a Sh100,000 down payment after they agreed to search for the bodies for Sh250,000

Kenya Navy has since been called to lead the multi-agency search mission that includes Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (Kemfri), Kenya Police,  State department of Transport and Kenya Ferry Services (KFS). 

Out of the 14 areas that have been marked as possible locations where the car might have sunk, a search has been conducted on only eight. 

Meanwhile, Owaga has turned down a job offered by Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho when he toured the channel on Wednesday. 

The late Mariam Kighenda and husband John Wambua. [Photo: Courtesy]

He rubbished the job offer, saying his team was internationally acclaimed and his standards of service go beyond that of a “municipality.” 

“I am internationally trained and the county government employment is not of my standards,’’ said the diver who was also involved in the Lake Nakuru chopper crash search mission. 

Mombasa County Communications Director Richard Chacha said Owaga had not reported to the county offices or formally rejected the job offer. 

“A decision will be taken when he fails to take it up,” Chacha said.