Students cite suicide link as police probe school fire

Detectives Sunday stepped up their investigations into a dormitory fire that killed eight students and left several others injured at Moi Girls’ School in Nairobi.

A police source said Education CS Fred Matiang’i, who is also the acting Interior minister, had appointed top investigators to handle the matter and directed them to act with speed to pave way for Form Four students who are expected to return to school on Friday.

The police, he said, were pursuing different angles, among them whether the fire was caused by an arsonist or an electricity fault.

The source, who spoke to Nation on condition of anonymity, said students had pointed a finger at one of their colleagues who, according to them, harboured plans to set the dormitory on fire.

SUICIDAL

“According to them, this Form One student had tried to commit suicide twice. First by drinking a detergent and, second by trying to suffocate herself using a pillow,” said the source.

This sentiment was echoed by some students interviewed by the Nation, who also asked the police to investigate the girl.

One of the students said the fire started from that particular girl’s bed and spread to the others and since most of the girls were deep asleep, they could not help quell it or escape on time.

“There are 10 cubicles in our dormitory, each taking eight to 10 students. I sleep in the one adjacent to the one where the fire started. We heard the students in that cubicle screaming and we went there and tried to stop the fire, but it was spreading very fast and so we decided to run outside. As we kept screaming the other girls from the top floor also rushed out,” she said.

SMOKE

The girl, who is in Form One, said during the commotion, electricity went off even as the fire spread and the smoke engulfed the dormitory.

“Most of the students could not even see where they were going because of the smoke and the fact that there were no lights. Others choked and fainted as they were heading out and we pulled those that we could. It was horrific,” she said.

Several students shared this narrative, but the Nation could not authenticate it independently. The police also remained tight-lipped on the investigations.

This came even as parents, teachers and government officials converged on the school on Sunday.

Only parents who identified themselves were allowed into the school. The gate, however, remained closed to journalists and the public.

COMB AREA

Students who sustained injuries were still undoing treatment at Nairobi Women’s Hospital with the management declining to discuss their state, insisting that a brief will be issued.

It was also not clear if Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, who was scheduled to check on the progress of the students, visited them as a scheduled press briefing on Sunday did not happen.

At the school dormitory, police officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations continued to comb the area in a bid to establish the cause of the fire that broke out at 2am early Saturday morning.

The dormitory remained cordoned off and could not even be accessed by the parents. Only police officers, led by Nairobi County Director of Criminal Investigations, Nicholas Kamwende and Kilimani DCIO Phyllis Kanina were allowed into the premises.

Mr Kamwende confirmed that some students had been interrogated, but could not give more information concerning the incident that led to the closure of the school.

ICU

The school’s parents association chairman, Mr Charles Odhiambo, on Sunday said three students were still at the ICU.

He said among those who were injured is the school guard who was involved in rescue activities.

“We wish to condole with the families who lost loved ones. The affected parents are receiving counselling at the school,” said the chairman.

Mr Odhiambo said the students in the affected dormitory lost all their belongings  in the fire and school management will advise  on the kind  of help needed for the girls.

Learners say Form One student had previously attempted to kill herself twice.

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