Kiwi survives massacre in Kenyan mall
TIM DONOGHUE, MICHAEL FORBES AND MICHAEL FIELD
A Hawke's Bay man has had a "miraculous escape" after being shot in the back as he lay on the floor while dozens around him were mowed down and killed at a mall in Kenya.
Napier mum Elaine McLaren said her son, Andrew McLaren, was "very, very lucky" after being shot during the Westgate mall massacre in Nairobi.
Mr McLaren, 34, was one of about 150 people wounded when al Qaeda-linked militants opened fire inside an upmarket shopping mall in the capital of Nairobi on Saturday (local time). At least 59 people were killed.
Mrs McLaren first heard the news her son had been shot when her second son, Ben, rang at 11.30pm on Saturday.
"Andrew's partner Kathy phoned him with the news Andrew was shot through the back as he and Kathy lay on the floor of a coffee house area in the shopping centre," she said.
Parts of the bullet exited via the front of Mr McLaren's rib cage but "miraculously" he had not been paralysed and it missed his heart.
The relieved mother said her son and daughter-in-law were in a coffee shop near the Nakumatt supermarket, one of Kenya's biggest chains when the attack started.
"Kathy told me Andrew had not been specifically targeted.
"I'm told there was random shooting going on and it was unfortunate Andrew copped a bullet as he lay on the ground. Andrew and Kathy were looking out for each other as they lay on the floor during the shooting."
The couple were scheduled to leave Nairobi on Friday to return to their Kerikeri home in Northland where Mr McLaren works for the avocado oil company Olivado.
They had been in Kenya for five months while Mr McLaren was managing the Olivado factory there.
Messages of support have flooded in to Mr McLaren from his mates in the Havelock North Rugby Club.
On the rugby club's website, Kathy McLaren thanked everyone for their support on Facebook.
"We feel very loved," she said.
Elaine McLaren said she had talked to her daughter-in-law but could not speak to her son.
"I have been told that Andrew is expected to make a full recovery from his wound. He was very, very lucky," she said.
"I have been told that the bullet did not penetrate his spine and that he will be operated on in a day or two to remove remaining fragments. We are not expecting him home anytime soon ... I can't wait for them to get back."
Ben McLaren was standing by to fly to Nairobi to be at his brother's bedside.
When her son and daughter-in-law left New Zealand earlier this year it never crossed the mother's mind that they might be caught up in a militant attack.
"I am just so grateful that Andrew lived through this.
"I can't begin to think how terrible it must be for people who lost loved ones," Mrs McLaren said.
British High Commission staff in Kenya were taking care of the Kerikeri based couple.
Mr McLaren attended Hastings Boys' High School and Eastern Institute of Technology where he studied mechanical engineering.
He went on to work as a food processor and manager for HJ Heinz before becoming an operations manger for edible oils company Olivado Ltd. The position required spending time in Kenya.
The New Zealand High Commission in Pretoria was also assisting Mr McLaren and his family yesterday. No other Kiwis were known to be involved in the attack.
Mr McLaren is the second person associated with the New Zealand-owned Olivado factory to be attacked since it was established six years ago.
In 2007 a director's father, Julian Nathan, was clubbed to death by armed robbers while he, son Chris Nathan and Olivado directors and staff visited Nairobi to set up the oil processing plant.
The company invested in Kenya because New Zealand and Australian avocado growers couldn't meet its demand forcheap, good quality, seconds-grade fruit.
In Kerikeri, Olivado manager Sarah Nicholls said Mr McLaren was doing well.
"He's stable and we are very grateful that he has survived. He has lots of friends there and our CEO Gary Hannam is visiting him."
She said the incident would not affect the company's operation in Nairobi.
"We're committed to our operation there and Andrew has done a fantastic job."
Mr McLaren was expected to return to New Zealand as soon as he was fit enough to travel.
"We look forward to seeing him back here," Ms Nicholls said.
She said there were no concerns about meeting his medical costs as he was fully insured.
Mr McLaren had worked for Olivado for two years.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was warning Kiwis in Nairobi to be particularly security conscious and avoid the Westgate shopping mall.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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