5 months on, 48-year-old injured in SpiceJet turbulence accident dies

Oct 29, 2022 11:47 AM IST

A passenger who sustained injuries during severe turbulence aboard a SpiceJet flight on May 1 succumbed to spinal injury last month, according to the death certificate issued in West Bengal

A passenger who sustained injuries during severe turbulence on-board a Mumbai-Durgapur SpiceJet flight on May 1 succumbed to spinal injury last month, according to the death certificate issued by a hospital in West Bengal and officials familiar with the matter.

17 people were injured on May 1 after the SpiceJet aircraft encountered severe turbulence while descending into Durgapur airport (ANI FILE)
17 people were injured on May 1 after the SpiceJet aircraft encountered severe turbulence while descending into Durgapur airport (ANI FILE)

Akbar Ansari (48), a resident of Jharkhand’s Giridih district, was among 17 people – 14 passengers and three members of the cabin crew -- injured after flight SG 945, which took off from Mumbai at 5.13pm on May 1, encountered severe turbulence during its descent at Durgapur airport at around 7.15pm. The flight carried 195 people.

After nearly five months of treatment at The Mission Hospital in Durgapur, Ansari died of “sepsis in shock” caused by “polytrauma with spinal injury” on September 26, his death certificate said. The certificate, seen by HT, also said he “sustained polytrauma while travelling in flight”.

The passenger was admitted to the hospital at 3.30am on May 2, and he died on September 26 at 5.06pm.

“Ansari suffered a severe spinal injury and fracture around his neck and was being treated at The Mission hospital in Durgapur. He was on a ventilator for over a month before he passed away,” a DGCA official said, asking not to be named.

“This is the second passenger death in India, due to severe en route turbulence,” the official added. In 1980, an Indian Airlines flight had entered into severe turbulence in West Bengal’s Rampurhat, killing two out of 132 people.

Ansari’s brother Maulana Akhtar, who was travelling with him along with another family member, said while the airline paid for the treatment, it provided no compensation.

“All three of us were seated with our seat belts on. It was around 20 minutes before landing that the aircraft went into turbulence. Despite wearing seat belts, my brother’s head hit the aircraft cabin’s ceiling twice, damaging his spinal cord and neck,” he added.

A SpiceJet spokesperson said all medical expenses of the passenger were borne by the airline.

“A passenger who was injured during the severe turbulence encountered by SpiceJet flight on May 1, 2022 sadly passed away last month. The Company extended all possible assistance, including taking care of the passenger’s medical and hospital expenses. Compensation is being paid as per norms,” the spokesperson said.

The Durgapur incident was among the most prominent in a string of flight safety incidents involving SpiceJet aircraft, which finally led to the civil aviation regulator taking action against the budget carrier earlier this year. DGCA also suspended the pilot’s licence for six months.

Ansari was a resident of Beko village in Giridh district. He worked at a garment factory in Mumbai and was travelling to his hometown when the incident occurred on the flight, Maulana Akhtar said. He lived in Mumbai for over 20 years with his wife and three children and was the only earning member in the family, Akhtar added.

“We felt as if the aircraft was going to crash. My eldest brother and I were on our way to our home town to celebrate Eid. The flight was smooth until it entered into the turbulence and changed our lives forever,” Akhtar said.

He alleged that the airline assured the family of compensation but was yet to contact them. “They (airline) are yet to contact us over the compensation. My brother’s son is yet to begin working, as of now we are managing by making contributions. But with every passing month, it is getting difficult for us to contribute,” he said.

Aviation experts said all air tickets should be compulsorily insured.

“It is the government’s aim to ensure passengers of all classes fly. Twenty-five percent of passengers belong to the lower middle-class category and can barely afford treatment for any kind of injury. Hence, all tickets should be compulsorily insured and charged to passengers,”aviation expert Vipul Saxena said.

“There is a need for a policy to ensure that in cases of any incident or an accident, an airline is made to pay on the spot. Treatment cost should be borne by airlines and in case it leads to partial or full disability, then there should be compensation equal to death. This case calls for the DGCA to act upon this public issue on an urgent basis,” he added.

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) is yet to release a report on the accident.

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    I am a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. I track the aviation and railways ministry. I also write on travel trends. I cover the beats at the national level for the newspaper. Before being in Delhi, I have worked as a journalist in Mumbai as well. My hobbies include trekking and travelling.

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