Mariam Kigenda’s family forced to pay private divers to remove bodies from sea

By , K24 Digital
On Tue, 1 Oct, 2019 19:10 | 3 mins read
The bodies of Mariam Kighenda and that of her daughter, Amanda Mutheu, have not been found ten days on after their car plunged into the sea. [PHOTO | FILE]
The bodies of Mariam Kighenda and that of her daughter, Amanda Mutheu, have not been found ten days on after their car plunged into the sea. [PHOTO | FILE]
The bodies of Mariam Kighenda and that of her daughter, Amanda Mutheu, have not been found ten days on after their car plunged into the sea. [PHOTO | FILE]

The family of 35-year-old Mariam Kigenda and her 4-year-old daughter, Amanda Mutheu, have been forced to hire private divers to retrieve their loved ones’ bodies after the exercise was called off Tuesday evening.

The State, through key agencies, including the Kenya Ferry Services and the Kenya Ports Authority, had launched a search for the bodies on Monday, a day after Kigenda and her child plunged into the sea while aboard their vehicle, which slid off MV Harambee Ferry.

Two days later, the bodies are yet to be removed from the waterbody.

Transportation of passengers across the Likoni channel was Tuesday afternoon temporarily halted to allow the Kenya Navy, Kenya Ports Authority officers and Kenya Coast Guard Services officers to get into the water and retrieve the victims’ bodies.

The temporary closure of the channel lasted over 30 minutes.

The Kenya Ferry Services managing director, Bakari Gowa, said Mariam’s body and that of her child, Amanda Mutheu, were spotted 75 feet (23 meters) under the water surface.

The vehicle which they were travelling in, a Toyota Isis, was located 173 feet (53 meters) below the water surface.

And following the unsuccessful operation by the State to remove the bodies from the sea, Kigenda’s family now says they have “lost hope” in government agencies, and have sought help from private divers known to have successfully undertaken a similar exercise.

By Tuesday evening, Kigenda’s family had already paid Ksh100, 000 to a private company – Kenya Rescue Divers – to undertake the exercise, said the family spokesperson Luka Mbati.

-Last call-

John Wambua, Mariam Kigenda’s husband, said his wife had — 30 minutes to the heartbreaking incident — informed her that she and their 4-year-old daughter were about to board a ferry at the Likoni channel.

Wambua said Kigenda had — during the weekend — visited their Kwale farm with their daughter, Amanda, and were on their way back to their Mombasa home, when they drowned after the vehicle they were travelling in, a Toyota Isis, reversed while on board of MV

Harambee, and plummeted into the sea.

“Shortly after 6pm, she [Mariam] called to tell me that she was on her way back and she was, in fact, about to cross. But at around 6.40pm, I scanned my Twitter and saw breaking news about a Likoni ferry mishap in which a vehicle had plunged into the ocean,” a distressed Wambua told People Daily on Monday, September 30.

“I was shocked and called my wife but I couldn’t reach her,” added a teary Wambua.

Minutes later, a WhatsApp message from Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) confirmed his worst fears: the vehicle’s registration plate — KCB 289C — belonged to that of his wife.

Ferry passengers, who witnessed the incident, say Mariam’s car, which was at the rear end side of the island bound MV Harambee, reversed and plunged into the ocean while the vessel was midstream.

The witnesses said Mariam and her daughter, Amanda, could be seen waving and screaming for help through the vehicle’s windows as the car floated for at least 20 minutes before it sank.

Likoni OCPD, Benjamin Rotich, said preliminary investigations indicated that the vehicle’s braking system failed, resulting in it reversing and plummeting into the sea.

Mariam’s family and friends believe the 20 minutes, in which the Toyota Isis remained afloat, was enough to rescue the victims had the Kenya Ferry Services “been serious about passenger safety”.

Mariam’s longtime friend, Sheila Karembo, told People Daily: “It pains to even imagine that lives were lost in these very waters where the Kenya Navy are making minute by minute patrols in preparation for Mashujaa Day which is almost a month away.”

Coast regional coordinator, John Elungata, on Monday put the blame squarely on Kenya Ferry managing director Bakari Gowa.

Gowa, however, said there was nothing much his administration could do, given the old ferries are yet to be replaced, and that the State is yet to okay the hiring of divers, whose key duty will be to help during incidents similar to Mariam’s.

Mariam’s vehicle, the government said, had been spotted 173 feet in the sea, but there are no equipment to retrieve it.

The State said it had sourced the high-tech machine from South Africa.