A 58 year old father is seeking recourse in a Nairobi court over the death of her  daughter who was killed by a hippo at  Sun Africa Hotels Limited T/A Lake Naivasha country club  while on vacation.

He wants the court to compel the directors of Sun Africa Hotels limited to compensate him for her only child alongside the Kenya Wildlife Society(KWS), the custodian of wild animals.

KWS has  distanced itself from the claim stating the hotel should shoulder the burden as it had charged riparian communities to erect manned electric fences or dig trenches that may prevent animals from attacking visitors, apart from putting bold warnings on premises of the looming danger.

Among its particulars of breach and negligence KWS accuses the hotel of “allowing wild animals to roam freely into the hotel facility’s garden and compound with no hindrances thus exposing the visitor’s to threats of harm….failing to install a watch tower or flood lights to provide security towards the lake….”

Sun Africa Hotels however says the   tourist moved too close to a calf rhino before the mother charged out of a dark shade and knocked her down, fatally wounding her on April 22 2013.

A father’s pain

Witnesses who were led in their evidence by lawyer Geoffrey Imende for the plaintiffs gave harrowing accounts of the fateful evening. They denied that the tourist was taking pictures as alleged.

Mr Luo Jiyao, testified that Luo Yi was his only daughter and that her death at Lake Naivasha Country Club in April, 2013, has robbed his wife and him, of their sole breadwinner in his retirement.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) through lawyer Patrick Lutta, has however maintained that the fatal animal attack was occasioned by the “joint negligence of both the deceased and the hotel.”

An investigator, Omboto Sebastian, also told the trial court that he found no evidence of noticeable safety measures and danger signs at the hotel.

He said a hotel staff who spoke on conditions of anonymity said the notion that the tourist was taking pictures was not true.

Omboto said unlike a nearby hotel which he visited to compare  security measures, Lake Naivasha Country Club had a tattered fence, no trenches…

“I took tremendous pain to inquire if visitors were given adequate security, my practical approach was to get eye witness who included hotel staff and the deceased’s friends.

He said the police told him the matter was to be left to be sorted out by the hotel management and KWS.

“KWS was very categorical that riparian communities, including hotel and flower firms had been educated about hippos in the lake,” Omboto said.

Failing to erect an electric fence

KWS also blames the hotel for failing to erect an electric fence to prevent wild animals from accessing its premises, encroaching on a riparian land where hippopotamus graze thereby exposing its staff and visitors to attack by wild animals, failing to dig trenches to prevent wild animals, as well as failing to provide visitors with armed rangers to protect them.

A witness Joyce Huang Yi said the lighting at the premise was poor on the night Lou Yi was killed on cross examination by Lutta.

Lutta: Did you see any danger signs?

Yi: No

Lutta: Were you given any escort to your rooms after you checked in?

Yi: No

Lutta: Was there any fence barrier between the hotel and the lake?

Yi: No

Lutta: Hotel staff say that they were taking photos of the hippo…

Yi: I didn’t see that

Lutta: how was the lighting?

Yi: It was dark

Lutta: Were you given torch lights?

Yi: No

“While already in their rooms, through their windows, they spotted a calf hippo grazing around the lawn area and due to their excitement on spotting the calf hippo, rushed out of their rooms armed with cameras to take photos of the calf hippo,” reads the court papers filed by the hotel.

The deceased moved too close to the calf hippo to take photographs and it is at this point that suddenly an adult female hippo, presumably the calf’s mother, and which was grazing under a shadow of trees, charged at and attacked the deceased, “ostensibly to protect her calf, and thereby inflicted fatal injuries to the deceased.”

Luo Jiayao, a retired former employee of Gao Xin Logistics and Hilton Hotel in Shaghai China recalled a phone call that made him catch a flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

“My daughter was born on 10th June 1984 and had graduated with a B.A in Engineering in 2006. She was also a holder of a master’s degree in Environmental management from Yale university,USA,” he said through an interpreter.

The tourist was an employee of a global management consulting firm AT Kearny(Shanghai) Management Consulting Company.

“I want court to compensate for my loss, pain and suffering that my family has been enduring,” Jiyao said.

He wants a claim slammed against the hotel and KWS  for  ” all expenses in air travel, accommodation, filing of the suit and all attendant expenses. Hearing continues.