World champion Kenyan hurdler dead at 28

Janet Murikira and Kristin Palitza
Kenya's Nicholas Bett, the 2015 400m hurdles world champion, has died in a car accident

Former world 400 metre hurdles champion Nicholas Bett has died in a car crash in western Kenya.

"We regret to learn of the sudden demise of one of our top athletes, the 2015 400m Hurdles World Champion #NicholasKiplagatBett who represented Kenya in the just concluded Africa Championships," Athletics Kenya said on Twitter.

Police chief Patrick Wambani told local media that the 28-year-old was driving home, having returned from the recent African Athletics Championships in Nigeria.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said he was "deeply saddened" by Bett's death.

"It is very sad indeed that we have lost one of our shining (stars)," Kenyatta said in a statement.

Deputy President William Ruto described Bett's death as "tragic and a big loss."

"He was an affable, popular lad who was adored by his peers. We have lost a hero and a sporting great," Ruto added.

In 2015, Bett became the first Kenyan to win hurdles gold at the Beijing World Championships.

Global governing body IAAF said it was "deeply saddened and shocked" by the news and recalled Bett's win as "one of the biggest surprises" in China.

Bett also won bronze medals in the 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay at the 2014 African Championships but failed to replicate his high of 2015 at future major events.

He was disqualified from the heats of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games for hitting a hurdle and his 2017 campaign was shortened by injury.

Bett reached the finals of both the Commonwealth Games and African Championships in 2018 but finished outside the medals.