Kenya: seconds after death – Oil tanker explosion survivors recount the ordeal
They played with death and survived from a mustache, 13 others were not so lucky. Survivors of the Gem tanker crash, which left 31 people treated for severe burns, told of their ordeal from their hospital beds at Yala Sub-County Hospital yesterday.
Although they narrowly escaped the grim reaper, they will forever bear the scars of the tragedy that grieved the village of Malanga.
Writhing in pain, a boy recounted how he was woken up by his mother to rush to the scene and find out what was going on.
As he was on his way there with other villagers, they encountered others who were running back with jerry cans full of fuel.
“We met a lot of people who were coming back with jerry cans of fuel. We collected containers to help us also with the free fuel but as we had just joined the rush the vehicle exploded,” the boy said.
Caught in the worst situation ever, he struggled to remove his pants which had caught on fire as he fought for his dear life.
In one room, two cousins sharing a bed were covered with a cradle to improve ventilation. Hesbone Oduor said he heard people screaming after the collision, which was normal given the frequency of such crashes along the busy highway.
“We rushed to the scene with other neighbors and started scooping up fuel. I had succeeded on one side before the second attempt to open the valve resulted in the explosion,” said Mr. Oduor, whose house is next to the road.
Mr. Raymond Otieno had followed Mr. Omondi to the scene but said he was not picking up fuel but was just a victim of circumstances who was in the wrong place at the wrong time .
Mr. James Omollo Oketch has revealed how he passed judgment which is likely to leave scars for the rest of his life.
He left his family to watch the evening news to answer a call from his friend to collect fuel from the tanker.
“I had already gone to bed and let my family watch the news when many calls from my friends took me to the scene for a share of fuel. I tried to escape the explosion but I wasn’t fast enough, ”said Omollo, who suffered burns to his limbs and lower body.
Mr. Paul Manasseh, a boda boda runner, only survived because he had rushed home to get a jerrycan.
“I had just come home to bring my jerry can, when I had a loud bang followed by a fireball and people screaming, running towards the corn fields as they called for help,” he said. Mr Manasseh said.
It was at this point that he mobilized other runners and began to help the injured. They transported some of the victims to the nearest health centers while others were taken to the county referral hospital.
“It was a terrible scene. There was a pregnant woman siphoning fuel while another had her child on her back. They all perished in the fire,” Manasseh said.
The jerry cans that had been filled with gasoline fueled the fire as they had been hidden in the corn plantations.
“We used wheelbarrows to move the bodies around the scene. Many people died because they were just passing by, oblivious to what was going on. I am happy with the way people worked together to save them. lives, ”Mr. Manasseh said.
All 13 bodies were transferred to Yala Sub-County Hospital while five victims were admitted.
Mr. Brian Muganda, the nurse in charge, was busy caring for patients throughout the day.
“The five patients admitted here are fairly stable, but since this facility cannot treat burns beyond 68%, we have transferred 19 of them to the county referral hospital,” Muganda said.