River Enziu tragedy: Families collect bodies as priest recalls gloom at wedding after sad news broke

River Enziu in Mwingi, Kitui County. [Philip Muasya, Standard]

Families of the victims of the River Enziu tragedy yesterday began collecting bodies of their kin from the Mwingi Level Five Hospital mortuary after a forensic identification. 

Some of the families said they were transferring the bodies to well-equipped funeral homes.

“We had 21 bodies positively identified using fingerprint database at the National Registration Bureau. We are in the process of releasing them to their families,” said the hospital medical superintendent Dr Evans Mumo.

Some of the grieving families complained of the mortuary's low capacity, noting that there was a risk of the bodies decomposing.

However, Kitui Health CEC Winnie Kitetu assured that the bodies had been properly embalmed. 

She said they were awaiting results on the remaining 12 bodies, whose fingerprints and DNA samples had been obtained by forensic experts.

Earlier, some families protested reports that the DNA identification results for the children would take two weeks, and called on the government to hasten the process to allow them give their kin a send-off.

Kitui Catholic bishop Joseph Mwongela is today expected to lead a requiem mass for all the victims at the St Joseph's Seminary in Mwingi town. Political leaders, among them Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, are expected at the service.

Meanwhile, Father Benson Kityambu of Kavisuni Parish, who is the brother of David Mutua, the elderly groom who was renewing marriage vows with his wife Veronica Syombua, described the tragedy as a blow to the family that lost 10 of its members.

Kithyambu noted that it was difficult planning for the burial since some of the victims were married in different parts of the country.

The priest also revealed that the accident was communicated to the presiding clergy when the coupled had already taken their vows and exchanged their rings.

The presiding priest at the Nuu Catholic Church had decided to proceed with the programme even without the entertainment of the choir.

“As the event went on, we noticed a lot of movements in the church and people conversing in low tones. Information was trickling in that a bus with our guests had been swept by the river, but nobody was brave enough to say it,” the priest said.

Kityambu recalls the gloom that ensued after the sad news was finally relayed.

“The couple demanded to be driven to the river to see for themselves what had happened. The final reception party was never performed,” he stated.