Boaz Kemboi would probably be dead were it not for the automated security doors at the 14 Riverside Drive complex.
According to Mr Kemboi, two gunmen tried to gain entry to the third floor premises where he works for a communication company, but were kept out by the automated security doors.
The steel doors are opened by swiping tags.
“When they reached the door, they tried opening it but they could not. They fired several shots at the door but those are steel doors,” he said.
The gunmen gave up and went to the next floor.
Kemboi said most people had panicked and fled to the upper floors when the gunmen started shooting.
“As we speak, I can tell you that there are many people still trapped in the upper floors. One of my colleagues is among them. We have tried calling his phone but he is not picking.”
According to Kemboi, parking at the building is strictly regulated, which explains why the attackers parked outside the hotel before going inside to buy takeaway coffee.
Kemboi and his colleagues were later rescued by plainclothes police officers.
“We were literally hopping around as we moved out. There were undetonated grenades on the floor,” he said.
When darkness fell, police extended the barricades as an armoured vehicle made its way to the hotel followed by several vehicles with diplomatic corps registration numbers. The hotel is frequented by foreigners.
At 8pm, sporadic gunshots were still being heard from the building.
One of the gunmen was said to have blown himself up immediately when he entered the building as his accomplices opened fire indiscriminately.
Separately, police have been praised for their swift response to the attack.
The first team to respond were officers from the nearby Australian embassy, who engaged the attackers in a gunfight, pushing them into the hotel’s main entrance.
The officers deflated the tyres of the car suspected to have been used by the attackers, stopping it about 40 metres away from the main security barrier to the hotel. The officers called for reinforcement.
Traffic officers manning nearby roads diverted traffic flow to allow emergency vehicles to reach the site. More police officers arrived a few minutes later and helped evacuate dozens of people who had been trapped in the building.
Special forces from the General Service Unit’s Recce Squad and the military joined the operation to flush out the attackers. Deputy Inspector General of Police Edward Mbugua and Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti led the operation.
By 8pm, the teams clearing the rooms had arrived on the fourth floor where they reported meeting resistance from the upper floor.
More gunshots were heard from the hotel. The police said they had recovered at least three live grenades at the entrance where at five bodies lay.
Scores of injured people were rushed to various Nairobi hospitals.
Four people were admitted to MP Shah Hospital and one body was brought in. Eleven other people are nursing gunshot wounds and cuts at Avenue Hospital.
The hospital recalled all its doctors, including those on leave, to handle the emergency
According to the chairman of the hospital, Marig Shah, the injured were two females and two males with gunshot wounds.