The Homeboyz bus that crashed and killed 56 people at the Fort Ternan black spot in Kericho county was on an illegal night run, Police Inspector General Joseph Boinett said yesterday.
Police are seeking the owner and sacco officials for violating traffic rules.
Kericho county police commander James Mugera said the accident occurred after the brakes failed and the driver lost control of the bus descending the black spot area.
It rolled several times, tumbling into a steep valley along the Londiani-Muhoroni-Kisumu road, witnesses said.
“It is suspected the driver of the ill-fated bus lost control as it was going downhill a few metres before the flyover. He was attempting to negotiate the sharp bend at the flyover but failed," Mugera said.
The roof of the bus was ripped off due to impact as the vehicle rolled downhill. The accident scene was littered with bloodied luggage and belongings of passengers, and debris.
Mugera said villagers and the rescue team responded swiftly but it took more than one hour to retrieve some bodies trapped inside the mangled bus.
The driver has not been accounted for, he said.
The Kakamega-bound bus operated under the Western Cross Express but the sacco has no office at the Machakos Upcountry PSV terminus.
None of the sacco's officials were at the yard where the six Homeboyz buses park.
The accident seems to have been jinxed from the word go, with survivors talking of a long delay, overloading and dizzying speeds as they hurtled toward death.
Preliminary investigations indicated that the 52-seater bus was carrying more than 70 passengers.
A tout at the Machakos bus station said most of the passengers were open-air market traders and hawkers who buy goods in Nairobi to sell in markets in Kakamega.
Drivers and touts at the station recalled the final moments with the bus driver, saying he was jovial. They said he was experienced, competent and always sober.
Other passengers were touts travelling for the funeral of their friends killed in another accident involving a Climax sacco bus that killed 12 people in Nakuru on September 30.
The 5 am accident yesterday occurred at the Tunnel Flyover area. Fifty-two passengers died on the spot, while others died on the way to various hospitals.
The police initially put the death toll at 50 but Kericho chief medical officer Dr David Ekwam said 52 bodies were received at Kericho County Referral Hospital mortuary. By last evening the number had hit 56.
The facility, with a capacity of 24 bodies, was overstretched, forcing the morgue attendants to pile bodies on the floor.
Dr Ekwam said the bodies of 29 men, 14 women and nine children were at the mortuary, awaiting identification by relatives.
“We have received 52 bodies of the passengers from the accident at Fort Ternan. We have established a desk outside the hospital where relatives of the victims can seek information concerning their loved ones," he added.
Sixteen survivors were receiving treatment at various Kericho hospitals.
“All the patients we are treating in our health facilities are in stable condition and responding to well to treatment," Dr Ekwam said. Fourteen patients were being treated at Kericho County Referral Hospital, e two others were admitted at Fortenan Subcounty Hospital, he said.
The wreckage was towed to the Fort Ternan police post, a few kilometres from the accident scene.
With this latest grisly accident, Kenya appears to be entering its bloodiest year of road carnage.
Kenya is ranked among countries with the worst road safety records.
The World Health Organization in 2015 said Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda — with 29.1, 32.9 and 32.1 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively — are amongst the 10 worst in road safety.
While statistics show that as many as 3,000 people die annually from road accidents in Kenya, this year’s toll is likely to be higher as the festive season draws near.
Traffic Commandant Samuel Kimaru said the latest statistics indicate an eight per cent increase in road crashes, compared to the same period last year.
He said 2,345 lives have been lost in accidents since January, compared to 2,153 lives lost last year.
The National Transport and Safety Authority reported that 3,539 lives were lost between December 2016 and December 2017. That covers victims who died at the scene or shortly afterwards.
However, the WHO places the average number of deaths in Kenya at 12,000 — including those who die months or years later of their injuries.
Many accidents are attributed to faulty vehicles, minimal or total lack of enforcement by authorities who are compromised by bribery.
The UN report says that in Africa, only South Africa meets any of the UN’s seven main vehicle safety standards.