Saleh Wanjala, popularly known as Bungoma James Bond, “spent the entire Sunday night crying hysterically” before he was found unconscious at his Khalaba Village home in Kanduyi Constituency, Bungoma County.
Wanjala arrived home after spending Sunday evening drinking alcohol, according to informants who spoke with K24 Digital.
On the fateful night, he went straight to his rented house without passing by his mother’s homestead as was always the norm, neighbours said.
Wanjala, 45, lived in a single-room mud-walled house, which is located several meters from his mother’s homestead.
“Throughout the night, he was crying hysterically,” a neighbour told K24 Digital.
“The cries were loud, suggesting he was in deep pain,” added the informant, who shares a rented house wall with the deceased.
The neighbour said that upon suspecting that Wanjala was in need of help, he rushed to the homestead of Wanjala’s mother in the wee hours of Monday morning and informed her about her son’s “strange” behaviour.
The deceased’s parent, Evelyne Kweyu, consequently, went to her son’s house, and requested neighbours to help her break down Wanjala’s window.
“We found him lying unconscious on the floor while foaming at the mouth,” said Kweyu.
Wanjala was taken to the Bungoma County Referral Hospital, where he was stabilised.
“His condition improved, and upon regaining consciousness, he said he was hungry. We bought him milk, which he took. However, his health deteriorated thereafter, leading to his death Monday afternoon,” said Kweyu.
The elderly woman said her son had, in the past three months, been battling alcohol addiction.
“He took a lot of alcohol, yet he hardly ate well,” said Wanjala’s mother.
“I suspect that the alcohol in his body contributed to his death.”
The deceased’s family are now waiting for a postmortem to be conducted on Tuesday next week to ascertain the cause of Wanjala’s death.
A funeral committee formed to raise funds for Wanjala’s burial says it is targeting Ksh300,000 for his burial scheduled for Tuesday, October 6.
“I wish to give my son a decent send-off, but I do not have money to do that. That is why the funeral committee has been formed,” said Kweyu.
“The [funeral] budget runs into hundreds of thousands because we are expecting local leaders including MPs, area senator and governor to attend the function.”
The deceased, a divorcee, is survived by a 23-year-old daughter, who sat her KCSE exams last year.
Wanjala shot to fame in May 2016 after he clung onto a helicopter carrying the body of Jacob Juma. He was, consequently, arrested and arraigned.
On March 20, 2019, A Bungoma court, however, set him free, saying the case lodged against the defendant lacked merit.
The court ruled that Wanjala, who had been christened Bungoma’s James Bond on social media, did not endanger his life and that of the captain’s as had been argued by the prosecution.
Bungoma Principal Magistrate Charles Mutai said the prosecution failed to prove how Wanjala’s actions caused disturbance to the captain, and, as a result, made the copter stand a chance of crashing.
Wanjala was offered pro bono representation by lawyer Andrew Kituyi.
In his submission to court in 2017, the pilot, James Sigili, told the court that Wanjala caused no danger when he hung onto the helicopter.
Sigili, then-46, acting as a State witness, told Principal Magistrate William Chepseba that ‘James Bond’ caused no danger to him or his passengers.
While being cross examined by Wanjala’s lawyer Andrew Kituyi, Sigili blamed the police for failing to secure Posta grounds where the helicopter was to land, thus allowing youths to disrupt the removal of the body for public viewing.
“Your honour ‘Bond’ caused no danger to either me or my passengers because I had not even seen him hanging on the helicopter’s trunk. I was only informed by my co-pilot and the noise from the public. I just took him directly to Bungoma Airstrip where I left him to jump to safety,” said Sigili.
He said he had not encountered such an incident in the more than 20 years he had served as a pilot, but a majority of residents always milled around the helicopter to have a close look at it.
“Bond’s incident was a proof of bravery, its unique talent, he caused no danger because he was just curious and wanted to have a look at the body of Jacob Juma, I see nothing wrong,” he said.
Wanjala hogged media headlines in May 2016, when he precariously hung onto the helicopter for almost five kilometers — from Bungoma’s Posta grounds to the airstrip.
He was injured in the process when the aircraft dropped him at Posta grounds and was hospitalised at Bungoma County Referral Hospital for a week.