Westgate survivor narrates how he made it a live despite shots from terrorist and security personnel
A duck into meat cold room saved my life.I shouted that I was a Nakumatt staffer but they did not seem to believe me… they fired straight at the glass wall
He survived heavy gunfire from Al Shabaab terrorists but Jared Odhiambo was nearly killed by the military. He owes his life to a split-second decision to duck into a tiny cold room in the supermarket at Westgate Mall.
The Kenyan soldiers shot several bullets towards his hideout, which left him with minor scratches on his left arm that he used to parry glass smitherens.
When we sit down for this interview, Odhiambo, 27, a shop attendant at Nakumatt Supermarket, breaks into a thin sweat, wipes it off his face before finding composure to talk about the most horrific day of his life.
It was an ordinary Saturday morning, and he was assigned at the till section – his role being packing and helping customers to shove their purchases out of the supermarket.
This is Odhiambo’s story:
“I was going about my business helping a customer who had just paid for his shopping when we heard the first gun shots, it sounded like an ordinary exchange perhaps between robbers and the police.
Me, like most people, wanted to find out what was happening and we moved closer to the main entrance just a few metres away.
But the shooting persisted and the shots got louder, and everyone was running inside the mall. The gunmen, about three of them, were in tow, firing indiscriminately.
While some of our staff were able to escape out, I decided to rush to the butchery section. About 20 customers were already in this secluded section, plus the workers in the meat area.
Everyone was lying face down, including about seven children. The gunmen were drawing closer, shooting at everyone on their way.
Just before the gunmen took the last turn to the meat section, I thought the area was never going to be safe, and that is the point where I thought of the cold room.
I opened the heavy glass door and jumped in. I reached for the switch and turned the freezer off.
Just then, another lady was screaming and running towards the meat section. She had seen the door to the cold room close, and she begged me to open. I was frightened with all the shooting going on, but I thought letting her in might help in disguising her from the militants.
And it sure did. Her heart was pounding hard but she managed to find her cool.
The gunmen were less than three metres away now and we could hear them issuing commands to the people they had taken hostage.
There was hardly enough space to stand on both feet, so I was resting on one foot at a time, interchanging after about five minutes.
The shooting resumed, and we were choking from the gunpowder, but we stayed steady. Through a very small opening that we had left for ventilation, I could see the people being shot dead. They seemed to be in a hurry as they were shooting while blowing whistles, perhaps to communicate between themselves on the execution of the attack.
The attackers run over the entire supermarket, moved to the rest of the ground floor while another group was in the upper floors. They took several shots at the cold room wall but luckily it is very heavy, and the impact was minimal. But we were holding our breath, all the while. We thought they were done, only for them come back at around 4 pm.
This time they were thorough. “Who is still alive?,” one of them shouted. Two white women, one shot in the leg, raised their hands. They were ordered to stand up and say what their nationalities were.
The two, plus their three children, identified themselves as an Italian and Dutch national respectively.
Another gunman even apologised to them saying, “We are very sorry about what has happened to you but you know we are fighting Kenya and US, get up and go!”
The injured woman was helped to get up and out of the building, while the other one walked, escorted by two of the attackers.
More than three hours later, we could hear our own military men come in, and we thought help had come. They were however very apprehensive when they saw the number of bodies outside the coldroom. There were more than 15 bodies.
“Na hapa wameuwa watu wengi sana?,” I heard them talk. At this time, I shouted that I was a Nakumatt staffer but they did not seem to believe me, I even waved at them, slightly opening the door, but they fired straight at the glass wall.
The bullets, must have been more than 10, were hitting the heavy door and the glass walls from where tiny pieces of fragmenting glass hit us. We could see several bullets lodged in the glass but not fully through, and they must have thought we were dead and they left. That was around 7.30 and the fighting inside was intense.
We were lucky to be rescued at around 10.30pm when another contingent of the military came in.
Not sure if it was the right time to shout for help, we waited till they talked to some of the survivors who were now heavily bleeding before we came out.-standardmedia.co.ke