One victim’s body found in Siaya boat tragedy

Kalkda residents steer the ill-fated boat that was washed downstream on River Nzoia in Alego-Usonga in Siaya county on May 17, 2020. A joyride turned tragic after the boat capsized killing five people. PHOTO COURTESY

The body of one of five victims of the Saturday boat tragedy that occurred in River Nzoia was retrieved on Monday afternoon, as the search for the rest entered its third day.

The retrieval of Mr Kennedy Odhiambo, 32, was the first recovery since the weekend incident when a speed boat capsized in the river at Sango bridge killing five people.

His body was spotted floating in the river around midday at Simur area in Ugenya by sand harvesters.

On Monday, his widow Maureen Oginga, 26, was inconsolable.

She is three months pregnant and has been camping by the river bank with others family members of the victims since the incident happened.

“We rushed to the scene after word reached the village that some riders had drowned in River Nzoia. I had no idea that my husband was among them and I am yet to yet to accept that he is no more,” said Ms Oginga who last saw her husband alive that Saturday morning as he left for work.

Although Luo traditions require that the first body to be spotted is left floating until the rest of the team is spotted,the retrieved body will be buried immediately because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The other families have agreed to this.

Also among the bereaved is 25-year-old Marceline Achien’g, a new mother who lost her husband in the tragedy.


She and her three-week-old baby have been forced to spend three cold nights at a tent erected along the river bank with others as they waited for the bodies of their loved ones to be spotted.

She left her other three children aged between 10 and 3 behind under the care of a relative.

“I received the sad news from my neighbours two hours after it had happened. I rushed to the site and confirmed that my husband was among those who were missing,” she said.

Her husband, Daddy Ogidi, 24, left home at 8.30 am for work on the fateful day.

They had been married for five years and had four children.

“He was the sole breadwinner in the family. I don’t have a job and I have no idea how I will take care of my children,” she said.

Divers from Bomet County arrived on Monday and joined the search operation.

They were sourced by the Siaya County Government following pleas from families of the victims.

Siaya County Secretary Joseph Ogutu said the search was going on under supervision of the Ugunja Sub-county administrator and police officers.

Mzee Vitalis Opiyo is also grieving the loss of his step-son.


He says that in line with the Luo traditions, families of the boat victim are required to keep vigil at the point where the tragedy occurred until the bodies are retrieved.

“Families who are yet to get the body of kin retrieved will have to continue to camp here until they are spotted,” he said.

Mzee Opiyo said that ordinarily, the first body to be spotted would be tied with a rope and left in the water until all the other bodies are found.

“They would have had to wait to retrieve the rest to pave way for burial preparations. But this might not be possible because of Covid-19,” he said.

Since Saturday at around 1 pm when the boat sank, no official search had been mounted to retrieve the bodies until Monday morning when the professional divers from Bomet arrived.

The river, swollen from the heavy rains, made it risky to conduct the search.

On Sunday, youths — mainly boda boda operators — managed to retrieve the ill-fated boat at Kalkada area near where it had capsized.

The engine that was used to propel the boat couldn’t be traced.

The five boda boda operators who perished in the boat tragedy are said to have travelled six kilometres from their operations base at Rabar before meeting their death in River Nzoia.