‘Jesus Help Us!’ Survivors of Kitui Bus Tragedy Tell Of Painful Screams as They Drowned

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A day after he stared death eyeball to eyeball, Christopher Musili, a devout choir member at St Cecilia Catholic Church woke up early on Sunday as is his routine and attended the 7.30 am mass.


Perhaps to thank God for saving his life even as tens of his friends and choir members perished on Saturday in a Mwingi river.

Clearly shaken, it’s obvious he is yet to even believe what happened. As the benches where the drowned choir members sat stare in eerie silence, Musili remembers the missing voice of Dominic Mataka, the choir instructor, made Musili sadder, totally breaking his spirit.

“He was a great teacher. I had even enrolled with him to teach me music and to sharpen my vocals to be a better singer,” he said, choking in tears.

Musili said he had a premonition as the yellow bus belonging to St Joseph Seminary and which had carried beyond its capacity arrived at the bank of the river at around 10:30 am. The 51-seater bus had more than 15 extra passengers standing in the aisle

They waited up to 1:30 pm for the water that had overflowed the bridge to subside. Then everyone grew impatient and urged the driver to dare fate. As they boarded the bus again the choir members, mainly women, pushed the driver to get going. He felt very uneasy.

What exacerbated their impatience is that two other matatus and a lorry had just successfully crossed the submerged bridge.

“I became very fearful as the driver started going. I feared we would be submerged,” he said. “It was like a blanket of fear covering all parts of my body, shaking me to my stomach.”

But once the bus’s front wheels missed the bridge and slipped into the deep, Musili said, he became calm as the women started screaming. He told the Star

“Most of the men kept quiet while women shouted ‘Jesus help us!’”

The sound of the air bubbles as the bus turned and sunk made him feel like he was inside a swimming pool but his calm mindset helped him ponder his escape.

“I felt like I was in a swimming pool and I used a window which was open to getting out. I closed my eyes and would hold my breath for about 20 to 30 seconds repeatedly. I took in the water four times to help not run out of oxygen,”Musili said.

He would open his eyes occasionally and swim in the direction of light and the shouts of rescuers calling out. Local divers and well-wishers were on hand to help him.

“That’s how I got saved. But I have lost a lot of friends.”

Joyous Mutua, 23, said he mastered some strength and made repeated blows he made on the bus’s window, shattering the glasses to make way to his safety.

As of Sunday evening, 31 bodies had been recovered from the river. Rescue efforts roped in KDF soldiers and divers who had three helicopters to rush the survivors to emergency help.

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