Seventeen-year-old Brian Sendyowa, a senior three student, became the 10th victim of the deadly fire which burnt students alive in a dormitory at St Benard’s SS Manya, Kifamba sub-county, Rakai district, on Sunday.
Sendyowa died in terrible pain at about 4 am yesterday morning in Kiruddu general hospital. He had been transferred there in a last ditch bid to save his already broken life.
“My child died while asking for water to drink every after 10 minutes,” Luke Mukalazi, Sendyowa’s inconsolable father, told The Observer.
“He could take water but still ask for more until doctors refused us [to give him more]… He told me he was feeling a lot of heat and died in the kind of pain which nobody has ever experienced.”
Shell-shocked, Sendyowa’s dad was among several parents who gathered outside the city mortuary. All were consumed by grief so deep it was palpable. Sendyowa sustained extensive damage to his internal organs. He was urinating blood before he passed away.
The boy, like other victims, suffered extensive third-degree burns all over his body. Although the doctors did their best, it was too late for Mukalazi’s boy.
“It was only his head that could be recognised but his whole body was seriously burnt. He said fire started at around 11pm and they heard people putting padlocks on the door and thought it was their patron who didn’t want them to go out at night,” Mukalazi said.
Mukalazi spoke with overwhelming sadness as he repeated what Sendyowa told him before he breathed his last. His son revealed how they heard someone splashing liquid into the dormitory through a window which they first mistook for water.
“After a few seconds, they started smelling petrol and immediately someone started the fire. The arsonist said, ‘I have finished you and I will also burn the girls too’. He ran away as the students peeped through the windows and saw him; he appeared to be of their age group…They made an alarm for help but there was no response. They rushed to the door to get out but it was locked from outside, so, they went back to hide in the beds which had also started catching fire,” he says.
“In the process of running up and down in the dormitory, one of the burning mattresses fell on Sendyowa and it burnt him seriously. Almost all students in that dormitory were suffocated and they became unconscious,” he adds.
Mukalazi says a senior five student who was passing by the dormitory after prep saw the fire first and alerted people. Desperate rescue attempts were frustrated by the devious planning of the arsonists.
“When they [first responders] reached the security guards house, they found it also locked up with padlocks from outside…,” Mukalazi says.
All this happened while the victims trapped inside the burning building suffocated and burnt under the beds. Feeling the emptiness only a bereaved parent can feel, Mukalazi now blames the school administration.
He asks: Why did they allow the dismissed S.4 students to come to the school daily yet they had promised to harm other students?
“The previous week, someone poured paraffin in the same dormitory and attempted to start a fire. They left a note, that ‘danger or hatari is coming’. The students informed the administration but they … never stepped up the security of only two guards,” he says.
Teo Aliganyira, the mother of Remigius Tamale, 17, another dead senior three student, says she was called by the school administration at around 3am on Sunday night.
“I rushed to the school immediately and reached at around 4am. I couldn’t see my son. I looked at those who were injured and I couldn’t see him. The students told me that they tried to save him but he was trapped in the bed and yet the fire was too much. He became weak, and failed to push himself until he told them to leave him and he died,” she says while weeping.
Heartbroken, Aliganyira spoke of the frustration of parents at the city mortuary.
“Since Sunday, we have been refused to see our bodies in the mortuary. They have taken DNA samples from us but they told us to wait for two or three days or one week to get the results. They told us to go back home; they will call us when they have finished examining the bodies and found the true identities,” she says.
An emotional Peter Bisegerwa, Tamale’s father, does not know what to think.
“Our children died innocently. It could be even a grudge of school administrators and they sacrificed our children,” he said while hoping the DNA results can come back soon so that they can bury their children.