A night of wining and dining ended in tragedy, with television producer Daniel Chemjor getting killed after his car crashed on Wednesday night.
Chemjor, 40, died after his Toyota Premio plunged into Cheploch Gorge, a tourist attraction barely three kilometres from his house in Kiboino village, Baringo.
Witnesses said the journalist, who worked at K24, and was home on paternity leave, spent his last hours with a friend, identified as Gideon, at the Big 5 Resort near Cheploch on the Iten-Kabarnet road.
Joseph Kipkurui, the hotel’s manager, yesterday said Chemjor and his friend were jovial and joked the entire evening.
“A few minutes after 10pm, Gideon said he was leaving. Chemjor allowed him to go and promised to follow. He (Chemjor) jokingly said he would overtake Gideon along the way,” said Mr Kipkurui.
The hotelier said Chemjor left the bar a few minutes later.
“Barely four minutes after he left the hotel, I heard a bang from the bridge and some workers rushed to the scene. They realised that a car had hit the guard rails and plunged into the Kerio River,” said Kipkurui.
The car was retrieved yesterday at about 11.50am, 12 hours after the deadly plunge.
At the scene, a section of the guard rail on one side of the bridge was flattened. A tree had been felled while the wall of the 30-metre gorge showed signs of the impact that ended the life of the TV producer, who had previously worked at KTN.
A large crowd milled near the scene, where divers jump from the bridge to entertain tourists.
Elgeyo Marakwet County Commissioner Ahmed Omar said police officers had camped overnight at the scene, as security officials sought assistance to recover the body and car.
Mr Omar said Chemjor might have been speeding, citing the flattened guard rails and the mangled vehicle. He commended local divers and SBI, an Israeli road construction company, for leading recovery efforts.
“The river is between seven and 15 metres deep, and is infested with crocodiles. The operation could have taken longer,” he said, adding that the body was taken to Kabarnet County Referral Hospital mortuary.
Chemjor’s family, which was overwhelmed by grief, described the journalist as their pillar.
His father, Simon Kiptegen, broke down at the scene of the crash as he narrated how he heard about the accident at about 1am and prayed that his son was not in the vehicle.
“I spoke with my son when he took leave to be with his family. He had good plans for his family. I lack words to express the loss. I am only urging the government to construct a barrier along the bridge to prevent accidents,” Mr Kiptegen said.
Joseph Kiptegen, Chemjor’s uncle, said the journalist had been home to take care of his wife and the new baby.
“I have lived with Daniel for a long time, since his father has been away. We were still celebrating the newborn when the devastating news struck,” Joseph said.
Before his death, Chemjor had a short chat with a KTN TV producer, who is a former colleague, on WhatsApp.
“Hi brother. Uko job leo (are you working today)?” the colleague wrote at 7.30pm.
Chemjor replied: “Nope, having a drink in Baringo.”
That would be their last conversation.