Nyeri Governor Wahome Gakuru died in a horrific road crash, becoming the second county chief to die in office.
Gakuru was hardly two months in office when he met his death.
This is only eight months after Nyeri’s first county boss Nderitu Gachagua died while undergoing treatment abroad.
The accident occurred in Makenji along the Murang’a-Nairobi highway at around 7am as Gakuru was travelling to Nairobi for a media interview at a vernacular station.
Police said the accident occurred when the driver lost control due to a tyre burst.
The governor’s Mercedes E250 then rammed into a highway guardrail, which pierced through it on the side the governor was seated on.
The county chief was impaled by the guardrail.
First responders at the scene frantically attempted to free the occupants from the wreckage.
And while the Gakuru’s driver, assistant, and bodyguard were evacuated, the governor was trapped by the guardrail which had gone through his abdomen.
Tana Water Services Board Chairman Wachira Keen, who took the injured to hospital, recounted how the governor was trapped inside the vehicle due to the impact of the crash.
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Keen said Gakuru had visible injuries on his lower back and legs.
“He recognised me immediately I stepped forward and pleaded with us to take him to hospital.
“It took efforts by the public to rip open the car and free the governor who was on the front passenger seat,” Keen told The Standard.
He said the governor had lost a lot of blood at the accident scene as the guardrail had a devastating impact on the side of the vehicle he was seated.
“The driver was still conscious as he was not badly injured but the rest were in bad shape.
“I put them in my vehicle and sped to Thika Level Five Hospital. The doctors at the hospital did everything to save him (Gakuru) but I think it was too late,” he said.
When The Standard visited the scene moments after the accident, blood had pooled on the road and inside the vehicle.
The magnitude of the horrific accident was evident from the way several car parts were strewn around the scene.
One of the vehicle’s front wheels was missing and the doors were off their hinges. Some documents, a pair of shoes and a tie were scattered on the tarmac.
About 20m away in a nearby maize plantation lay the burst tyre that had been torn into shreds.
Separate accounts indicate the vehicle was moving at high speed and the road was wet when the tyre ruptured.
The governor’s car had four occupants at the time of the crash.
Besides him were his personal assistant Albert Kaguru, his bodyguard Ahmed Abdi and his driver Samuel Wanyaga.
The late county chief’s personal assistant had his right hand severed off his arm and police officers were still looking for his wrist when The Standard left the scene. He also suffered a broken right leg.
The bodyguard’s legs were seriously injured while the driver sustained minor wounds.
The PA and bodyguard were later transferred to a Nairobi hospital for specialised treatment.
Wanyaga, yesterday underwent treatment at Nairobi Hospital where doctors said he was out of danger.
Council of Governors Chairperson Josphat Nanok (Turkana), who led a team of other governors on a visit to the hospital, were however not able to see both the personal assistant and bodyguard, as the two underwent surgery later yesterday.
While Wanyaga and Abdi were hospitalised at a Nairobi hospital, Kaguru was rushed to Aga Khan Hospital where he underwent surgery.
“We have seen the driver in the ward. He is out of danger. He had some injuries on the leg but they are being taken care off,” said Nanok after visiting him at the facility.
“The security officer is in the theatre right now (yesterday). He had a slight injury on the leg and is being attended to,” added Nanok.
Nanok, accompanied by governors Mwangi wa Iria (Muranga), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), and Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), earlier visited the deceased governor’s personal assistant at the Agha Khan Hospital.
“Basically we wish them quick recovery. We also empathise with the late governor and the Nyeri people for having lost their governor,” said Nanok.
He said a meeting with all county bosses would take place today for both briefing and planning.
Ms Waiguru pledged support to families of the governor’s bodyguard, driver and PA.
“A lot of times we forget the people who work with us and the message today from the Council of Governors is that we are concerned about everybody who was involved in the accident,” said Waiguru.
Mwangi Wa Iria thanked the medical teams handling the three.
Gakuru’s body was taken to the Lee Funeral home in Nairobi.
Shocked residents were still trying to come to terms with the incident yesterday.
Lydia Muthoni, who witnessed the accident as she was going to the farm, said she heard a loud bang and on looking saw a tyre flying in the air and a vehicle that was moving at high speed.
“I heard a loud bang and saw a tyre flying in the air coming towards me. It almost hit me on the head,” said Ms Muthoni.
The witness said when she went near the vehicle that stalled after hitting a guardrail ahead, she noticed the vehicle had four occupants, three of them seriously injured.
Area residents arrived and started to remove the passengers who included the governor trapped in the mangled wreckage.
“By the time the governor was removed from the vehicle, he was bleeding profusely and it was evident he was in pain,” she said.
Rescuers had to use a power saw, and axes to free the passengers.
The four were rushed to Thika Level 5 for emergency treatment where the governor died moments after arrival.
While breaking the news, Murang’a County Commissioner John Elung’ata said the accident occurred at around 6.45am as Gakuru was heading to Nairobi from Nyeri.
Residents said the crash scene is a black spot, especially during the rainy season, as it usually becomes slippery.
[Additional reporting by Luke Anami]