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February 19, 2019

Patel Dam owner charged with causing Solai deaths

Perry Mansukh and Vinoj Kumar at the Naivasha law court yesterday. /GEORGE MURAGE
Perry Mansukh and Vinoj Kumar at the Naivasha law court yesterday. /GEORGE MURAGE

The owner of Solai Dam, Perry Mansukh, and two others were charged yesterday with causing the deaths of 48 people two months ago.

This came a day after the DPP directed that nine people be charged with manslaughter. Only three presented themselves to the police before being charged with 50 counts. The court issued a warrant for the other six.

Mansukh, his farm manager Vinoj Jaya Kumar and director of water in Nakuru County Johnson Njuguna were jointly charged before Naivasha principal magistrate Joseph Karanja with causing the deaths of the 48 when the dam burst.  They pleaded not guilty.

Read: DPP orders arrest of Patel Dam owner

More: Solai dam owner, two others remanded at Naivasha police station

Mansukh looked shaken and at times emotional. He listened for more than four hours as the charges were read.

Mansukh and Vinoj were further accused that on diverse dates between 2007 and May 9 this year, they failed to prepare an environmental impact assessment report of the dam before commencing works on the project

Njuguna was charged that during the same period and being a public servant, he failed to inspect the dam as required by law.

According to an affidavit sworn by police Geoffrey Mwau, 47 people died on the material day while the 48th victim, a child, died while undergoing treatment.

The officer said 223 families, comprising mainly women and children, were displaced and a trail of destruction left behind.

There were heated moments  after the prosecution applied to the court to deny the three bail. He said they were  a threat to witnesses.

State counsel Catherine Mwaniki said the first two accused persons were of Asian origin, hence flight risks. She said the suspects could interfere with witnesses, who included workers in the Patel farm and former colleagues.

“The suspects could intimidate the main witnesses and jeopardise this case. We call on the court to deny them bail,” Mwaniki said.

The defence, led by lawyer Evans Monari, opposed the application, saying bail is a constitutional right.

Monari said that contrary to sentiments by the prosecution, Manusukh is a Kenyan citizen with invesment across the country.

“The accused are law-abiding citizens. They were deeply affected by the accident and are not a flight risk as alleged.” he said.

The magistrate directed that the three be held at the Naivasha police station. He is to rule on their bail application today.

More: Patel dam owner Perry Mansukh arrested in Nakuru

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