19 Jan

A family of four in Bomet County is seeking for justice after their nine-year-old son was killed by a tea-harvesting machine. Emmanuel Kipkurui, who was slashed by the self-propelled machine is said to have been driven by curiosity to know how the machine was operated. Preliminary investigations indicate that the machine operator was returning from the field after the day’s work when the deceased curiously tried to operate it before the tragedy struck. The body was moved to Kapkatet Hospital Mortuary. Bomet County Police Commandant Mathews Mangira said they had summoned the operator of the machine to record a statement  The police boss called for calm among residents and workers at the tea estate saying they will ensure justice is served. “We are going to take action on the operator if the investigation shows that there was negligence,” he said. Judy Chepkemoi, the mother of the deceased while recalling the last moments of her son at James Finlay tea estate, said the company should be held responsible for the incident that happened Monday evening. Chepkemoi,39, who works as a tea plucker at Cheptabes Estate, said she was busy preparing dinner on the fateful day at their Kitale village home within the tea plantation when the incident occurred. "My son would be a life today if the farm was faced off- to separate the worker's quarters from the tea estate," she told the Standard at home. According to Chepkemoi, the incident occurred at around 5:45 pm, just after her son had collected a sweater from the house to cover himself from the cold. "He found me preparing a meal and asked for his sweater. I told him to get it from the house and I continued with my house chores," she recalled her son's last moment. It was after a short while that she realised her son was missing and it was getting dark. "I went outside to look for him and suddenly saw other children running towards me. My son was not one of them. I knew something was wrong," she recalled. But before she could ask for his whereabouts, other children started screaming, shouting the son's name as they pointed toward the direction of the machine. Then it dawned on her that her son was no more when she went closer to the scene. Kipkurui was a Grade three pupil at Cheptebes Primary School located within the vast tea estate. His sister Cynthia Chebet also attends the same school. Chepkemoi said her family was just seeking justice for their only son, saying the company must do something about the location of the staff quarters and the tea plantation to protect the children living there. Her husband Fredrick Terer, who is also a tea plucker, echoed her sentiments. Terer said it is not enough for the company to cater for the funeral expenses but must also compensate them for the loss of life. "My son was only a curious boy. He did not deserve such a cruel death. It is okay for the company to cater for burial expenses but they must know that the life that was nipped in the bud matters." Mr Terer said. The accident sparked an outcry from leaders who are demanding swift action. Chepchabas MCA Wesley Kiprotich said there was a need for the police to fast track investigation. Speaking to the standard, Kiprotich said all the people involved should be brought to book. He decried what he termed as a slow pace of investigation saying it was sad that even the operator was still walking scot-free. The incident has sparked tension among workers with Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union demanding that the company should take responsibility for the incident. KPAWU Branch Secretary Dickson Sang said an assessment should be done and the affected family compensated. Tension marred the better part of Tuesday after the company workers went on a go-slow in protest. However, intervention by the company and police averted a confrontation. 

Source: Standard Media