TEN DROWNED

Survivors of Usenge boat tragedy recount night of horror

Passengers fell into the lake as others held onto bunches of bananas hoping to stay afloaT.

In Summary
  • Police boss Francis Kooli said the boat ferrying goods from Uganda had about 20 people including the crew on board.
  • Only one body havd been retrieved by Thursday; nine were still being sought.
Usenge Beach
TRAGEDY: Usenge Beach
Image: COURTESY

Stephen Matayo,  a banana trader for 27 years at Usenge beach in Siaya county, was on a boat from Uganda on Tuesday.

He and other passengers started off around 10.am and hoped to arrive in Kenya around 9pm or 10pm.

Matayo said there was too much wind and and strong waves as they approached home. They reached Kenya around 9pm and just a few meters before landing the worst befell them.

 

"Due to strong waves, one of the ropes from the boat got stuck in the engine and in the process of removing it, the boat capsized," he recounted.

He said in the horrific moment some of the passengers fell into the lake as others held onto the bunches of bananas hoping to stay afloat as others held onto the boat.

"During this time, we were screaming for help and by God's grace some fishermen who were in the lake heard us and came to our rescue," he said. A total of 10 people were rescued including a three-year-old child.

This was the second accident Matayo was experiencing in Lake Victoria. The first one was in 1993 but nobody died.

Police boss Francis Kooli said the boat ferrying goods from Uganda had about 20 people including the crew on board.

Kevin Kalai said his sister was amongst the nine people who were being looked for, believed to have drowned.

"Its not easy for us but we pray that they manage to get them," she said.

 

Maureen Namakhola, together with her three-year-old daughter, survived the tragic boat accident. She said they held onto the floating luggage before they were rescued.

"It is by grace of God that we managed to survive. I can't even explain how," she said, adding that it was a miracle.

Khudamba Issa who sells bananas said around 8.30pm they were forced to drop some of the luggage as the waves were too strong.

He said from the time they started their journey from Uganda to Usenge beach everything was okay before the winds became too strong. 

"When our boat turned just before reaching the shores, I managed to swim but thank God I was rescued by the fishermen who were in the lake at that time," he said. 

The area assistant chief Fredrick Ochieng' told the Star on Thursday that the search was still ongoing at the beach by teams from both Uganda and Kenya. 

Ochieng' said the body that was retrieved on Wednesday was still at the scene until the other nine people are found. 

The body was tied with a rope and left floating at the shores. Culturally, it is believed that if the body is removed from the scene, then the nine others will not be found. 

"Most of the families had come and they are currently joined in the search and we pray that we get the remaining people," he said. 

On Wednesday,  Benerad Mebei said it was possible the boat was overloaded or it was not well-balanced.

Edited by Henry Makori