April 28th 2017

Top Stories / National

Furore over Kisumu matatu overloading as 14 killed in new crash

Most of the dead were secondary school students travelling for the commencement of the new school term that began yesterday. Reports from the scene indicated that 11 passengers died on the spot, with three others losing their lives as they were being ferried to hospitals in the region.

By Free Press Correspondentnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comThursday, 05 Jan 2017 12:07 EAT

Survivors are pulled out of the wreckage of the heavily damaged matatu. The picture has been blurred to conceal the identity of the passengers. (Photo: Free Press Correspondent).

Fourteen people were killed this morning when a 14-seater matatu crashed on the Kisumu-Kendu Bay road. The accident near Pap Onditi shopping centre has been attributed to over-speeding by the matatu which carried in excess of 18 passengers, contrary to the law that requires public service vehicles of that class to carry a maximum of 14 passengers at any time.

Among the dead were secondary school students travelling for the commencement of the new school term that began nationally yesterday. Reports from the scene indicated that 11 passengers died on the spot, with three others losing their lives as they were being ferried to hospitals in the region. Four passengers survived with varying degrees of injuries.

The accident sparked an uproar on social media over over-crowding in public service vehicles in the Nyanza region. More than in any other part of the country, matatu operators in the region carry excess passengers almost as a matter of right, and they have perfected the creation of illegal seating spaces on the isle between regular seats though a piece of wood commonly known as 'sambasa'.

The use of sambasa is a major contributor to the high casualty numbers from road accidents in the region, and the practice is condoned by traffic police officers who extort the matatu operators. During last year's vetting of police officers in line with the new constitution, it emerged that Kisumu and the wider Nyanza region is a lucrative post for corrupt officers, some of whom were found to have millions of shillings in their bank accounts despite earning a monthly salary of less than Sh20,000.

Given the entrenched culture of corruption, matatus carrying excess passengers go through the numerous police checkpoints in the region without any fear they would be reprimanded. The people too have come to tolerate overloading in public service vehicles, in part due to limited investment in transport sector by locals that can't meet the demand of the high population.

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