LENEXA, Kan. — A Lenexa, Kansas, father of four was crushed and killed while working on the family van.
The community is raising money with a GoFundMe page to help Jacob Birech’s kids and pay for his burial in his native Kenya, which was his last wish.
“Jacob was a charismatic and very loving man,” close family friend Faith Langat said. “He was a very humble person, community leader.”
On Monday, the family left their home for Kansas City International Airport. They’ll have several stops before reaching Nairobi, Kenya.
“Culturally, we have a respect for last wishes,” Langat said. “We would like to rest next to our ancestors, our ancestral home, even being immigrants. It’s very important to have that last respect, so we’re honoring it.”
On April 6, Birech, 54, was working on his van in the driveway of the family’s home.
Loved ones said he had the wheels off and was under the van doing repair work when he accidentally hit the jack, causing the van to collapse and pin him underneath, killing him.
“I rushed here hoping it would just be a simple accident and we would be able to get him to the emergency room, but I was approached by the police officers over there and I was just told that he’s gone,” Birech’s cousin, Christopher Sang, said.
Family said Birech enjoyed working on cars and was also working toward his Ph.D. in public policy and administration.
Birech once ran for public office in Kenya and helped start an organization for Kenyan immigrants in Kansas City.
Experts say when you work on your car to only use a jack on a flat surface.
“Even if you are on a highway, try to move to a flat surface, or even if you’re working on your vehicle, make sure that you move it out of your driveway into your garage,” Officer John Lacy of the Overland Park Police Department said.
Per multiple reports and industry experts, drivers should use jack stands for safety after lifting the vehicle with the jack.
As of Monday evening, the fundraising page for the Birech family had raised nearly $5,700.
“He spent every opportunity he had with his children, with the community, he was a leader,” Sang said.