Haverhill charity workers speak of lucky escape

Charity workers caught up in a tragedy in Kenya would have been killed if they had sat at their usual table by a hotel pool, on the day a building collapsed, killing seven people.

Members of the Haverhill-based Focus on Africa charity are now back home safe and well from Kisumu.

As reported in the Haverhill Echo front page story two weeks ago, the team were relaxing by the pool after a day’s work at a local school, when the five-storey building under construction next door suddenly tumbled.

The charity’s chairman, Brian Boltwood, a heating engineer with Havetech, told the Echo how close the group came to losing their lives.

“We usually sat by the pool , but we sat further in the garden and the choice of seat was critical that day,” said Brian.

“There was a huge explosion and it sounded like a bomb had gone off and the timber crashing down sounded like bullets going off.

“It looked like a bomb blast as rubble was being thrown through the wall towards us.

“My first thought was to protect Zoey and Jan and I put them in a recess of our building to shield them from the bricks coming our way.

“I was shocked when I realised half the table we normally sat at was under the rubble.

“None of us would have been here if we had sat there.

“All we could hear was screaming and shouting as people tried to get others out.”

Luckily the only injury was a cut knee but Brian kept the volunteers confined to the hotel for four days as the local elections might have led to violence.

“It’s not an experience I want to repeat,” said Brian. “But we stayed and continued our work at an infants school where we were getting the water and electric on.”

The volunteers travel to Kenya once or twice a year and pay their own expenses.