Owner of Embakasi gas plant to face murder charges

Residents of Mradi area in Embakasi listen to safety instructions following a gas explosion on Feb 6, 2024. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Investigations into the Embakasi gas tragedy are now almost complete.

Detectives from the Embakasi DCI, who are probing the explosion at a gas refill point in Mradi, Nairobi are a step away from recommending murder charges against the proprietors already in custody.

Preliminary investigations by the police reveal that there was negligence by the staff and management of the gas refill point.

According to an investigation brief seen by The Standard five suspects face charges of murder and operating a business without valid permits.

On Tuesday, four suspects including Derrick Kimathi who is said to be the owner of the illegal gas refill point were presented before a Nairobi court where the police sought 21 days to hold them to conclude investigations.

Other suspects who were presented before Nairobi Magistrate Dolphins Alego are National Environment Management Authority (Nema) staff David Walunya Ongare, Joseph Makau and Marrian Muteta Kioko.

DCI detectives are still pursuing the driver of the lorry that is said to have arrived at the gas refill point on the fateful day.

DCI boss Mohammed Amin yesterday revealed that the police are still hunting for other five suspects.

In a Facebook post on the DCI page, Amin said the police are pursuing Stephen Kilonzo who is the site manager at the gas refill point and other senior officials in Nema.

The Nema staff being sought have been identified as Anne Kabiri and Lynette Cheruiyot both senior environmental officers.

Two truck drivers identified as Robert Gitau and Abraham Mwangi have also been directed to surrender to the DCI to assist with investigations.

Separately, another team of investigators from Nairobi area were on Tuesday in Namanga to investigate the movement of a trailer that transported gas from Tanzania and is among the vehicles that were damaged at the gas point.

Investigators are keen to establish how the gas entered the country from Tanzania and if duty had been paid at the boarder point.

“We want to know if duty was paid and how much," said an investigator.

Once the investigations are complete, the DCI is expected to hand over the file to the DPP who will make a decision where to charge the suspects as recommended by the police.

Last week, officers at the Embakasi Police Station who spoke on condition of anonymity said the police were aware of the illegal operations at the facility but could not act.

“We have tried but failed. The owners appear to be well connected and every time the police attempt to crackdown, we get calls from our bosses stopping us," said an officer at the station.

DCI investigators have already come up with a preliminary report on the matter.

Sources close to the investigations told The Standard that the investigators had established that there was negligence on the operations at the gas refilling plant.

At the same time the DCI investigations revealed that the plant was operating without the required licences.

“We recommend the owners be charged with murder and also operating a business without a license," said a senior official in Nairobi.

The explosion at the illegal gas filling point in Mradi came barely 12 months after the owner was found guilty by a Nairobi court after relevant agencies raided the plant. 

Epra last week said operations at the facility had been stopped after investigations revealed that the operators were refilling gas cylinders of other brands without authority.