Kenyan family members outraged after 22 yr old drowned in a pool in Indiana


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Kenyan family members outraged after 22 yr old drowned in a pool in Indiana: Kelvin Mwangi’s family members are outraged after the 22-year-old drowned in a pool at the McKinley Woods Apartment complex Wednesday evening. Even though state law says the phone should have been working for someone to call for help, the president of the company that manages the property said it was not.

According to the St. Joseph County Health Department, the emergency phone worked the last time they inspected the pool in August 2010, but when an inspector contacted the complex to get inside the locked gate for inspection numerous times in 2011, the complex did not return correspondence.

Mwangi’s mother, Perpetual Wambugu, said she feels her son might still be alive had the phone been working.

“I saw people pointing at me, so I knew there was something wrong,” she said, recounting what happened when she returned home from visiting a friend Wednesday evening and saw several police cars and a large gathering of people.

Wambugu said she quickly learned medics rushed Kelvin to the hospital after an afternoon swim with a friend at the complex’s pool turned tragic. The friend noticed her son lying at the bottom of the pool after the two had been swimming.

“He tried to dive down, and then he was unable to [reach Kelvin] so he went up, tried the phone, tried to call 911 with the phone. It was not calling,” Wambugu said.

The phone Wambugu said the friend attempted to use but could not get to work is located inside a red box on the pool deck. Kelvin’s twin brother John said several minutes passed while the friend frantically screamed for help. Eventually, a couple in a nearby apartment heard the screams, called 911 and pulled the young man’s lifeless body from the pool.

“I was so angry. So angry that I don’t know what I can say,” Wambugu said, tears filling her eyes.

According to state law, all public and semi-public pools must have a telephone within 200 feet of the pool enclosure and must be available for emergency use whenever the pool is open for use, with the facility location and emergency telephone numbers for 911 and other first responders posted within view.

“I think [the apartment complex] should be accountable for my brother’s death,” said Kelvin’s identical twin brother, John Mwangi as he fought back tears. “If that phone was at least working, I mean, my brother could be alive today.”

Kelvin and his family immigrated to the United States from Kenya three years ago. He worked two jobs in South Bend, including one at the Logan Center, and went to school at Ivy Tech. According to his brother John, Kelvin wanted to be a doctor.

Holladay Properties manages the McKinley Woods Apartments. Holladay is aware the phone did not work when the boy tried calling for help, said company President John Phair. However, he did not believe it would have made much of a difference in the outcome if it had been working, he added.

He also said neither the company nor the complex have ever denied the health department access to the property or the pool.


Kenyans in Indiana mourn drowning victim

MISHAWAKA — The door to a small Mishawaka apartment was slightly ajar, revealing crowds of Kenyans talking and cooking, sometimes laughing or brushing away a tear.

Inside the space, nearly 100 people gathered throughout the day Thursday to eat, pray, mourn and celebrate the life of Kelvin Mwangi, the 22-year-old man who drowned Wednesday evening.

Mwangi, 22, died at a local hospital after he was pulled from the bottom of the pool at the McKinley Woods Apartment complex.

Piles of shoes cluttered the doorway to Mwangi’s apartment, a short walk from the pool.

Inside, men and women cooked on the stove at the apartment the man shared with his twin brother and his mother. Others sat in chairs in the kitchen and living room, filling up almost every space in the simple and clean apartment.

They are all Kenyans transplanted to the Mishawaka area — a “family in a foreign country,” as Mwangi’s friend Maureen Ndungu called it.

Mwangi moved to the United States in 2009, and found his family away from home through a network of churches in the area.

Friends described him as humble, hard working and dedicated to his church.

Sounds of vegetables sizzling on pans added to the buzz of chatter in the apartment, so full of people that there was little walking room.

The friends served beef, vegetables and pilau, a traditional Kenyan rice.

“That’s our culture,” Ndungu said. “When somebody is mourning, we all meet. We are gathering together to comfort the family.”

The informal gathering is something like a Kenyan wake.

Ndungu said friends cook for the family and offer support so they don’t have to be alone while they grieve the loss of a loved one.

The door to the apartment remained slightly propped open to accommodate the steady flow of people.

Joshua Muturi, another friend of Mwangi’s, said Mwangi was an active member of his local Christian church, which played a key part in him finding the fellowship of Kenyans in Michiana.

Mwangi attended Ivy Tech Community College, and hoped to one day be a doctor.

Mwangi believed education in the United States would give him the chance to do that, Muturi said.

Meanwhile, Mwangi was working as an administrative assistant at the Logan Center, his friends said.

The friends smiled while talking about Mwangi’s life, but looked down when they discussed the swimming accident.

“I still can’t believe it,” Muturi said. “I feel like he is going to come back soon.”

A group of men rescued Mwangi from the pool Wednesday evening, witnesses said. A woman administered CPR while another tried to call 911 from the pool’s emergency phone, which was not working.

Muturi said Mwangi’s family and friends are angry the phone was broken.

WBST reported that the St. Joseph County Health Department last inspected the phone in 2010, but could not access a locked gate or reach management when it tried to again inspect the phone in 2011.

State law mandates that public pools must have a working emergency phone within 200 feet of the pool.

Ndungu said Mwangi had just gone swimming the previous day, and was okay.

St. Joseph County deputy coroner Randy Magdalinski said an autopsy indicated the cause of death was drowning, but he could not elaborate on what caused the man to go under water.

“His time was up. God needed him,” Ndungu said.


Source: South Bend Tribune


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