Baringo boat tragedy toll rises to seven as rescue mission ends

Wednesday, April 24th, 2024 00:11 | By
Divers and officers from the Kenya Coast Guard during a search and rescue operation within Lake Baringo after a boat carrying 23 people capsized. PHOTO/Charles Mwangi
Divers and officers from the Kenya Coast Guard during a search and rescue operation within Lake Baringo after a boat carrying 23 people capsized. PHOTO/Charles Mwangi

Bodies of six missing persons who drowned in Lake Baringo on Sunday afternoon have been found.

The recovery has brought the total number of fatalities in the accident to seven following the recovery of a 14-year-old-girl who died minutes after being rescued on Sunday.

Speaking to the press at the shores of the lake, Baringo County Commissioner Stephen Kutwa said that the bodies were recovered minutes after the search operation began.

“On Tuesday morning, we resumed the search operation and at 6:30am, all the six bodies were spotted near Kokwa Island within the lake,” said– Kutwa.

Major Bernard Mibei from the Kenya Coast Guard described the search and rescue operation as difficult.

“It was not easy, especially for the divers. The visibility of the lake waters is almost zero and they had to do through estimation to know how deep one had gone,” said Major Mibei.

A total 23 people had boarded the boat on Sunday among them 21 children, an accompanying adult and the boat rider.

“The children were heading to a church for a visit and youth meeting. Unfortunately before they got to Kokwa Island, their boat capsized. They were luckily spotted from the other side,” said Kutwa.

A group of boat riders and island residents who responded to the distressing situation managed to rescue 17 people including the boat rider but one child died upon reaching the island.

“We are grateful to the community for swinging into action immediately when the boat capsized. Unfortunately we have lost all the six people who went missing after the tragedy,” he said.

Bodies of the six were retrieved from the lake Tuesday morning and taken to Kabarnet Hospital mortuary where the families were ferried by the government to identify them.

Christine Lemusurunga, a mother of four came close to losing her life and all her children had she boarded the ill-fated boat.

“I was to accompany them. Our bishop assigned me some duties in Kabarnet. My four children left for the island. Unfortunately I have lost three of them in the tragedy,” said Lemusurunga.

She lost her three daughters aged 14, 12 and 9 while her 16 year old son Elvis Kikenyi survived.

“It is very painful but I am a Christian. I have faith in God and He had a reason for this. I believe my son was saved for a purpose,” said Lemusurunga.

According to Kikenyi, the tragedy was caused by a fishing net which entangled the boat engine.

“The engine got stuck in the nets and the boat started moving backwards. The weather also changed and strong waves hit the boat making the younger children panic,” said Kikenyi. He said that the children jumped into the lake as the boat capsized.

Samuel Montorosi, a resident whose son also survived, blamed the accident on lack of enough experienced adults to accompany them during the journey.

“The journey usually takes 30 to 45 minutes. We also have to study the weather before embarking on the journey. If there are winds, you better cancel your plans to cross the lake,” said Montorosi.

Baringo Deputy Governor Felix Maito however pointed fingers at the boat rider for allowing more people to board the boat.

“The boat is designed to carry between 8 to 10 people. However this one had 23 souls on board. This was a great risk and very common. We need to regulate how the boats are used on this lake,” said Maiyo.

In implementing this, Baringo South MP Charles Kamuren called for the procurement of water ambulances to respond to.

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