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Kenyan Catholic Parish in Mourning after Wedding-bound Seminary Bus Plunges into River

Credit: Courtesy Photo

Good Shepherd Mwingi Parish of Kenya’s Kitui Diocese is mourning after a bus in which choir members and others were traveling plunged into River Enziu in Kitui County, claiming at least 30 lives.

Two members of Brothers of St. Peter Claver, over 20 members of St. Cecilia choir of the Kenyan Parish, and some flower girls who were joining other wedding invitees at St. Joseph Nuu Parish of Kitui Diocese are reportedly among those who lost their lives.

Some members of the St. Cecilia choir shortly before the tragic accident. Credit: Courtesy Photo

A video footage seen by ACI Africa following the Saturday, December 4 early afternoon accident shows the unsuccessful attempt of the driver of a bus belonging to St. Joseph’s Minor Seminary of Kitui Diocese to navigate a submerged bridge. 

Credit: Courtesy Photo

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The vehicle is seen tripping into the river, Kenyan media later reporting that there were at least 60 aboard the ill-fated Catholic Minor Seminary bus.

Rescue efforts that started off with locals and later involved multi-agency operations including divers from the Kenya Navy succeeded in rescuing at least a dozen people, according to local media reports. 

The driver had waited for some two hours before deciding to cross the bridge, according to reports

Br. Stephen Kang'ethe who was driving the bus and his confrere, Br. Kenneth Wanzala Okinda, have both been confirmed dead, multiple sources told ACI Africa about the two members of the Brothers of St. Peter Claver, a Machakos Diocese-based Religious Order that was founded by the first Archbishop of Nairobi Archdiocese, Archbishop John Joseph McCarthy.

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The bus was destined to St. Joseph Nuu Parish where one of the brothers of a member of the Clergy of Kitui Diocese was to solemnize his marriage, a source accompanying some of the bereaved family members told ACI Africa Sunday, December 5, referencing Fr. Benson Kityambyu.

St. Cecilia choir had been “invited by the daughter to the bride and bridegroom who happened to be the choir matron”, the source further said.

Fr. Kityambyu has lost 11 family members, the source added, explaining that as a Parish choir, members are expected to be drawn from the same Small Christian Communities (SCCs) and families; and some of the occupants of the bus were to play the role of flower girls at the Catholic ceremony.

“The couple whose marriage was solemnized lost two daughters and two grandchildren,” the source further said, adding that 33 bodies have reportedly been recovered, including that of Br. Kang'ethe who was driving the bus, and that of Br. Okinda had been recovered.

Credit: Courtesy Photo

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The wreckage of the bus was retrieved on Sunday, December 5, with a help of a crane and an excavator. 

The Governor of Kenya’s Kitui County posted on social media, "The ill-fated bus wreckage has been retrieved from the river bed and the process of ascertaining whether there are any more bodies still trapped in the wreckage or the river bed continues."

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta led the nation in sharing his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and a quick recovery to the injured at Mwingi Level 4 Hospital.