A multi-agency team on Thursday failed to retrieve the vehicle that plunged into the Indian Ocean carrying a woman and her daughter after currents moved it from its initial position, the Nation has established.
Reliable sources, who were part of the team that spent eight hours at the spot where the car had been spotted, told the Nation that the car was moved by heavy undercurrents as it was not tied to a float that had been set up to mark position.
“After the car was located by the machines, it was not tied by any rope. A rock-like object tied on the pink float was put at the spot as a mark only for us to come and learn that the vehicle moved,” the Nation was told.
He explained that on Thursday the team was using two machines, including a remote-operated undersea vehicle (ROV), to get the vehicle and tie it up before moving it out, but all their efforts were futile.
“We spent the better part of the day with the Chinese guys who had their machines and another machine which was being used by officials from the South African company, but all failed, forcing us to call off the operation,” said the official, who is not allowed to speak to the media.
On Tuesday, the team spotted the vehicle 58 metres deep in the channel, using a KPA remote-operated undersea vehicle.
Video footage seen by the Nation showed two of the vehicle’s tyres, with the car lying upside down and its windows locked. A review of the tape also shows a human hand through one of the windows.
Officials added that the team of South African divers had by Thursday afternoon failed in their attempt to hook the car, using ropes as the strong undersea currents posed a challenge and a danger to them.
“The divers have tried their best to hook the vehicle but the undersea currents were too strong. So we had to hold back and re-strategise. This is a dangerous mission, so we couldn’t risk the divers’ lives,” a leader in the teams told the Nation in confidence.
It also emerged that the team was also mulling getting magnetic equipment after their mission to tag the vehicle failed. “We might be forced to import magnetic equipment to assist in retrieving the vehicle, which might take a bit long since it is still difficult to hook the vehicle in that depth,” the Nation was told.
Government Spokesman Cyrus Oguna confirmed that the strong waves posed a challenge the team’s efforts to hook the car. “The currents were strong and indeed the divers failed to hook up the car. We hope that tomorrow we shall have come up with mechanisms to address this challenge,” he said.
It also emerged that the South African team was not happy with how the Kenya Navy was conducting the exercise, causing friction.
“The South Africans are not happy with the way the Navy is doing this. They feel like they are being pushed to the limits with the Navy doing little,” a source with intimate knowledge of the operations told the Nation.
Earlier in the day, the recovery process, which began two hours late, was slowed down by what Mr Oguna said was the “tight ship traffic”, with ferries and two ships crossing before the operation began.
Later, a pontoon carrying the lifting equipment to be used for retrieving the vehicle was brought to the spot where the vehicle is believed to have been located. It was assembled by South African firm Southern Engineering Company.
The family, through its spokesperson Luca Mbati, said they had become impatient with the slow process of the retrieval. “We had our hopes after they told us that they had found the vehicle but it seems to be taking longer than expected. We need an explanation of why this is happening,” Mr Mbati said.