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Road crash claims Kenyan distance runner, African medallist injured

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan distance athlete Francis Kiplagat was among the five who lost their lives in a grisly multiple accident on Monday night that left 2010 African men’s 5,000m silver medallist Vincent Yator injured.

Another athlete, who is yet to be identified, was also injured in the accident where two died at the scene on the busy Nairobi-Nakuru highway and three at the nearby St Mary’s Mission Hospital.

Those injured were rushed to local hospitals following the incident at about 10:30pm.

The accident occurred after a trailer lost control and rammed into a fleet of vehicles heading towards Nairobi, with Yator who finished fourth at the 2010 Commonwealth Games among those hospitalized.

The athletes were travelling back to Eldoret after spending the day in Nairobi processing travel visas to compete abroad.

Kiplagat, 28, is credited with nine career victories by the Association of Road Running Statisticians, with lifetime bests of 14:58 (5km), 29:45 (10km), 62:49 (Half Marathon) and 2:15:57 (Marathon).

He won the 2015 Srem (68:08) and Bialystok (65:08) half marathons in Poland as well as the Olesno (14:58) 5km road race in the same country.

According to a training partner, identified only as Sheila, the 28-year-old Yator who is the Nairobi 2010 silver winner and his colleagues spent Monday morning in Nairobi processing travel documents to race abroad.

“We were with them in Nairobi to apply for visas and Yator told me he would be left behind in town to chase some payment from his agent abroad at Central Bank since he wanted to take the money with him home,” said Sheila.

“There is one called Evans that Yator is still pursuing his money that had been delayed at Central Bank. At night, Evans flashed me and when I called him back, he informed me that Yator had not yet arrived in Eldoret and it was past midnight,” she told journalists.

“I did not call during the night; I went to sleep. In the morning (Tuesday), I went for training and called Festus, who told me he had travelled and was already in Nakuru and they could not find Francis (Kiplagat).  They later found Francis in Gilgil deceased,”  the grieving Sheila added.

Julius Ndegwa, the Secretary of the Professional Athletes Association of Kenya said Yator was injured in the head, chest and back.

“I understand the deceased is Francis Kiplagat, he was in the vehicle that had an accident in Kikopey. I will give more details as soon as I get them,” Ndegwa said.

Yator made his Team Kenya debut as a junior when he finished fifth at the 2008 World Under 20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland running 13:35.67 in the men’s 5,000m.

He also finished just outside the medals in fourth at the 2011 (5,000m) and 2015 (10,000m) All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique and Brazzaville, Congo in that order, the latter marking his last outing with Team Kenya. 

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