Bengaluru: The tragic news of an Air India Express flight from Dubai skidding off the runway in Kozhikode airport in Kerala Friday night shook the country.
According to the Kerala government, the death toll now stands at 18. There were 184 passengers on board Air India Express flight IX 1344 along with 6 crew members. Pilot Deepak Sathe and co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar are among the deceased.
Of the 184 passengers, 54 were stranded tourists, who could not return earlier due to cancellation of flights during the pandemic, 26 of them were returning due to loss of employment, 28 had to return as their visa expired, 6 others wanted to return due to medical reasons, among others.
“My father was working as a tailor in Abu Dhabi. But when Covid-19 struck, we wanted him back home. We are in shock because of what happened, but he is not seriously injured,” an emotional 16-year-old Abhinandan told ThePrint.
His father Purushottaman, 51, is now being treated for fractures in his leg and injuries on his hands at Maitra Hospital in Kozhikode.
Abhinandan said that he was able to talk to his father only for a few minutes after the crash. “He just told me he was fine and I was more than relieved to hear his voice. He had left just a year ago to go back to the tailoring shop he was working in. After this, we will never let him go anywhere, he added.
“He is fine and in the ICU for now. That’s what he told me over the phone,” Abhinandadan told ThePrint.
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Mohammed Mustafa, 28, was among those who was returning after losing his job due to the Covid pandemic. He was working at a juice shop and was asked to leave when Covid struck.
“He was not given his salary for 9 months and could not have continued there… we asked him to come back,” said Mustafa’s sister, who did not want to be named.
Mustafa suffered injuries to his legs and is being treated for multiple fractures at Baby Hospital.
Like Mustafa, Anoop Narayanan, 36, a resident of Villiyapalli, lost his job as an employee of a construction company due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Narayanan’s close relative, who works in the office of Kerala’s Education minister C. Ravindranath, told ThePrint that he is currently admitted in the neuro-ICU of Iqraa Hospital.
The relative, who didn’t want to be named, also gave details of what happened Friday night as said to him by Narayanan.
“The pilot tried to land the aircraft first at around 7.30 pm. But there was bad visibility and the flight took off once again. After 20 minutes, the pilot tried to land again. The aircraft touched the runway, but then it began swerving. The aircraft continued to glide and the next thing they know is that they are in a debris,” he added.
‘Thank god, they’re safe’
Palakkad resident Uma Azhakath was in shock when she heard of the crash. Her two sons, Parameshwaran and Ravishankar, daughter-in-law Tara and granddaughter Ayana were on the flight.
Parameshwaran, 30, was returning to India as he was to get married on 10 September. He works in a construction company, while his elder brother Ravishankar, 34, is a biomedical engineer in Abu Dhabi.
“We could not reach any of them for more than an hour. Finally a rescue personnel called us. I spoke to them and they said they were fine. Parameshwaran has to undergo a small spinal surgery, while Ravishankar has to undergo a thigh bone surgery,” she told ThePrint.
While Parameshwaran is currently at Maitra Hospital, Ravishankar is admitted in MES Hospital.
Tara will also undergo a surgery at MES Hospital, she said, adding that her 3-year-old granddaughter is admitted to Baby Hospital, but is not in a serious condition.
“Thank god all of them are safe. We can only think of them coming home safely now,” she added.
‘Kept his favourite food ready’
Among the deceased is C.P. Rajeevan, 61, who worked as a welder in Dubai. He was returning as he wanted to look for a groom to get his elder daughter married.
Rama, Rajeevan’s sister, told ThePrint that her brother had blood sugar problems and that is why he mentioned that he was unwell when asked why he wanted to take the flight to Kozhikode.
His employer had cut his salary and so he decided it was safer to be home, said his wife Nishi.
“He called from the airport and said that he will reach by night. He had asked us to keep a room ready for him as he would have to undergo quarantine. He said that we should all remain safe and keep our surroundings clean and this was the way to fight the virus. He was so caring and always looked out for us. We had also kept his favourite food ready,” said a sobbing Rama.
Meanwhile, speaking to ThePrint Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan said they would conduct a detailed investigation into the case.
“I have inspected the crash site. I have seen the debris and the plane has been split into two. We will be conducting a detailed investigation into the incident with the help of experts,” he said.
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