KU students flown to the city as CS warns of crackdown

Kenyatta University students who were involved in a road accident airlifted to Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Learning was suspended at Kenyatta University as the institution mourned 11 students killed in a tragic road crash along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway.

This as Roads and Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen urged motorists to be exercise caution on the roads.

The Monday night accident involved the university bus and a truck.

The bus was carrying students from the Department of Health Management and Informatics when it crashed near Maungu trading centre in Taita-Taveta County.

Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academics, Prof Waceke Wanjohi said 11 students were critically injured and airlifted to Nairobi for specialised treatment.

Forty-two students were admitted at the Moi Referral Hospital in Voi town. By Tuesday evening, seven of the patients had been airlifted by the Flying Doctors (Amref) from Moi Referral and booked at Avenue Hospital in Parklands for further treatment.

Amref’s Chief Medical Director Joseph Lelo said most of the students suffered trauma, multiple fractures and spinal injuries.

“We have just received the first aircraft which brought three of the most critically injured patients from yesterday’s accident. The patients have been rushed to hospital and now we are expecting the second lot,” he said. 

At the airport, a fleet of ambulances received the students, with support from Wilken Group. 

The hospital management told The Standard that the facility was expecting 16 patients.

Avenue Hospital Managing Director Mohammed Said said, “From the initial assessment, most of them are stable with multiple fractures. We will know more as we continue with treatment. Everything is ready ... some of them may need surgery. They are all being assessed.”

Grisly accident

Parents of some of the students were in shock when they saw their children for the first time after the grisly road accident.

The parents, who were still trying to come to terms with the tragedy, watched as their children were removed from the emergency ambulances for readmission.

They could not fathom how a trip that was meant to bring new experience to their children’s lives had turned into an encounter that left death and injuries in its wake. 

The families and officials from the university gathered at the medical facility in solidarity.

At the university, Prof Wanjohi announced postponement of lessons.

“Following the unprecedented tragedy, the university management has decided to suspend all classes for three days to enable us mourn our beloved students,” she said in statement sent to newsrooms.

As news of the accident spread, shock and disbelief rippled across the university with grief and sorrow permeating throughout the campus.

KU student president Teddy Odhiambo said they received news of the accident with shock. 

He added that an accident of such magnitude had never been reported at the university.

Mr Odhiambo called on drivers to be careful on the roads, noting that there had been a recent rise in accidents. He also urged fellow students to remain calm.

Prof Wanjohi said the university has set up a help desk at the business students service centre Room 151. A mobile number 0723 352 483 and landline 020 2310709 were provided to help with queries and offer support and assistance. 

Mr Murkomen, in a statement issued after the Maungu accident, said that the government is committed to ensuring that the country’s roads remain safe.

“In our road safety management, we continue to formulate road safety policies, implement road safety programmes and strategies, create awareness on road safety, and enhance the traffic legal regulatory regime,” he said.

The CS said that the government will implement an instant fine system to keep drivers in check.

“Following approval from the National Treasury, the ministry, through NTSA, is soon concluding a public-private partnership arrangement that will result in the implementation of the instant fine system, operationalisation of the demerit point system, driver profiling through the capturing of their driving history, and installation of speed enforcement cameras on all major roads and highways,” he said.

He also said the ministry will establish the Kenya Transport Accident Bureau that will be an independent agency for road, rail and water transport. “The Bill is currently with the Attorney General for publication. This bureau will work independently and thoroughly investigate all transport-related accidents and make recommendations to stem the rising fatalities.”

Murkomen said they are going to collaborate with the Ministry of Interior so that the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) collaborates with police for effective delivery of services.

“You will be seeing a return of the NTSA working with traffic police to enforce traffic safety on our roads as soon as possible,” he said.

He noted that in order to reduce road accidents, they are going to conduct driver re-testing for all public service vehicle and heavy commercial drivers. Medical testing will be done for all drivers and driver instructors before issuing of driving license as required in the traffic rules.

“The National Police Service and NTSA to intensify ongoing nationwide enforcement and impound all unroadworthy vehicles and those not integrated with the intelligent road safety management system for transmission of speed limiter data,” he said.

Voi sub-County Police Commander Dafarla Ibrahim said 10 students died on the spot while another passed away at the hospital. He added that the bus and the lorry collided head-on.

Hectic time

Police had a hectic time controlling a huge traffic jam, large crowds and looters who wanted to steal from the helpless victims at the scene of the accident. The incident paralysed traffic flow for several hours. The snarl-up was compounded by heavy rains pounding the region, said the police yesterday.

The accident comes at a time when a doctors’ strike is affecting critical services in health facilities. Dr Richard Wangai, a Kenya Medical, Pharmacists and Dentists Union representative in the region, said striking doctors responded to the accident.

[Report by Modachi Okumu, Renson Mnyamwezi, Gitau Wanyoike and Noel Nabiswa]

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