A 32-year-old man died while harvesting sand at a banned quarry in Barut.
Sammy Oyoro died after a heap of sand collapsed on him in the over 60-foot deep Kelelwet quarry.
According to Zack Nkoyo, a driver who was waiting for his lorry to be loaded with sand, he arrived at the quarry at around 7am moments before the tragedy.
“I was still waiting for loaders to arrive when Oyoro came and went to a spot where he had heaped the sand. After a few minutes, I heard a bang and saw a huge cloud of dust. I couldn’t see him even after the dust settled,” said Nkoyo.
He raised the alarm and other workers rushed to the site.
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“It is by sheer luck that I spotted him before the incident. We started digging out the sand... By the time we found him, he was alive but unconscious,” said Nkoyo.
The victim was rushed to a nearby dispensary, but efforts to resuscitate him were futile.
Area Chief Joseph Oyawa confirmed the incident, and said the body had been taken to Nakuru County mortuary.
The workers returned to the quarry and continued with work as usual.
Mary Tinga, an elder, said almost every year someone is buried alive in the quarry.
“Towards the end of last year, another youth in his early 20s died in a similar manner... A majority of the youths are jobless and have nowhere else to work,” said Tinga.
In 2014, the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) suspended all activities in licenced and unlicensed sand quarries due to environmental degradation.
The residents, however, resumed operations months later under unclear circumstances.
According to Oyawa, quarry owners have been presenting licences from Nema.
“The quarries were closed for a few days and later operations resumed. I approached the owners who presented permits from Nema. At that point, I couldn’t force them to close down,” said Oyawa.
Changes at Nema's county office since the Solai dam tragedy have seemingly affected operations as most of officials were suspended and replaced.
Nema County Director Antony Saisi said he was consulting with officials who remained in office to establish the position of the ban.
“I was not aware of the operations going on at the quarry. I am consulting with the remaining staff on whether the ban is still in force or has been lifted,” said Mr Saisi, who was recently deployed to the county.