The death toll from the Molo accident rose to 21 after two more casualties succumbed to their injuries.
The two had been rushed to Nakuru Provincial General Hospital for special treatment on Wednesday night following the grisly accident at Moto Quarry near Molo town.
And in a knee-jerk reaction to the Molo and Salgaa accidents that have claimed 34 lives since January 1, police mounted a major traffic operation that paralysed public transport after which most operators stayed off the roads for fear of being arrested.
In Molo town, the main matatu stage remained deserted while in Nakuru dozens of vehicles were rounded up and taken to the Central Police Station, leaving passengers stranded.
Nakuru OCPD Bernard Kioko said some of the impounded vehicles were unroadworthy, while the rest were stopped for speeding or carrying excess passengers.
But this did not go down well with PSV operators who described the police as accessories to the road carnage.
“Why should traffic police embark on a crackdown only after a major accident and revert to collecting bribes after that?” a furious matatu operator whose vehicle was among those impounded asked.
Operators along most routes in Nakuru said it was normal for them to carry excess passengers because only then could they get extra money to pay police bribes.
“We have to part with Sh300 every day and if you fail to pay, you will be arrested and face trumped-up charges. The officers, however, allow us to overload if we co-operate,” the driver of a matatu plying the Molo-Olenguruone route said.
On New Year’s Eve, 11 people perished after a matatu was involved in an accident near Salgaa along the Nakuru-Eldoret highway.
The 14-seater matatu that killed 19 people on Wednesday is said to have passed through several police barriers without questions being raised about why it was carrying almost double its legal capacity.
Investigation by The Standard revealed that impunity on the roads is driven by collaboration between drivers, conductors and traffic police officers.
When the matatus heading to Njoro, Molo, Keringet and Olenguruone towns leave the main terminus, they are known to pick up extra passengers along the main highway who squeeze into whatever little space is available between the seats.
Among those who died in the Wednesday afternoon incident were 10 men, six children and three women.
Seventeen of the victims died on the spot while the other two succumbed to injuries at the Molo District Hospital where they were rushed for treatment.
The driver of the ill-fated vehicle was among those who died on the spot while the conductor escaped with an injured head and broken arm and was undergoing treatment.
All the bodies were moved to the Molo District Hospital mortuary.
By Vincent Mabatuk and Karanja Njoroge, The Standard