Survivor:Guides lured us to deadly Hell’s Gate & there were many signboards warning of flash floods

Survivor:Guides lured us to deadly Hell’s Gate & there were many signboards warning of flash floods

Ivraj Singh Hayer recounts yesterday how he survived flash floods at Hell’s Gate which swept away his wife and four of his relatives / FITH MUTEGI

But for the profuse assurances by guides, the family whose six members died in Sunday’s Hell’s Gate tragedy would not have entered the gorge.
Ivraj Singh Hayer, who survived the disaster, told the Star yesterday that after a fun family weekend, they were reluctant to venture further into the park.
The had family spent the Saturday night at the Fishermen’s camp and the children had enjoyed the adventure.
The following day, after breakfast, they went to Geothermal Spar where they spent about four hours.
“After that, we used the main gate because we wanted to use the washrooms. As we were coming out, the rangers who were at the gate told us there is this place, where there is hot water at and all those – Hell’s Gate,” he explained.
“But we told them we did not want to see all that, just something quick like just going down for a quick tour,” he said.
Hayer paid the entrance fee via M-Pesa and at about 2.12pm, they were led by a guide to the Hell’s Gate gorge.
As they walked through, they saw many signboards, warning visitors of flash floods at the place.
They decided to seek an assurance from the guide and were informed that the last time the place flooded was in April. And so, they moved on.
“At about 3pm, water came out of nowhere, in full force. I called the guy I at the reception desk and told him, ‘tumebebwa na maji [we have been swept away. We need help,” Hayer said.
Nothing came and in that instance, Hayer saw his family go, one by one.
His wife of one and a half years, cousin, brother and his wife, niece and nephew and his friend were swept away by the floods.
A tour guide also died trying to help Hayer’s wife.
“I am standing here strong having lost six people. It is not easy, but I saw them go,” Hayer said as he struggled to fight back tears.
The Star caught had up with him at the Guru Nanak Hospital where the six bodies were ferried on Monday evening. He appeared weak and emotionally drained but still managed to gather strength to witness postmortem conducted on all the six bodies.
Hayer survived miraculously. “My driver was next to me and he managed to hold onto a rock and I held him. That is how we were able to hold each other, six of us, for hours for about one hour and 30 minutes,” he said, this time, his kin holding him at the back as he struggled to fight back the tears.
After waiting for one and a half hours, water speed reduced and they managed to run. But as they were coming out, they got stuck in the wet sand and it took the help of locals to get them out.
At the reception desk, there was no one. Later, a police Landcruiser arrived and then Kenya Wildlife Service officers and started the search. At 7pm, they discovered one body – a woman holding a bag. It was Hayer’s wife. “For me, that was shocking because it was my wife who had a bag at that moment,” he said.
The search was stopped because of the darkness. “We had a restless night. In the morning, we began the search again and they told us they found one body, that was my niece 17kms away,” he said.
One body was found five kilometres away and others between 17 and 30km.
“There is a niece of mine who survived. she is 14. She saw them go but she is not able to get answers where they went. She is so traumatised that she cannot even see them. She has not been eating for the last two days,” he added.
Yesterday, Hayer was still wait- ing for other family members who were still travelling from India and Canada to Nairobi before the bodies are interred.

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