Day after Kozhikode air crash, stories of heartbreak and heroism

Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram | ByRamesh Babu| Edited by Sabir Hussain
Aug 08, 2020 08:53 PM IST

Families and relatives of survivors thronged various hospitals to in Kozhikode to look for their kin, often leading to heated arguments with hospital staffers over Covid-19 protocol.

A day after the Air India Express plane crashed at the Kozhikode international airport, there were heartrending scenes of anxious families and relatives of passenger thronging hospitals for information about their kin.

A woman (center) is assisted out of a morgue after taking a final look at the body of her husband Sudheer Warrieth, who died in Friday's plane accident in Kozhikode in Kerala . The deceased was confirmed Covid-19 positive.(AP)
A woman (center) is assisted out of a morgue after taking a final look at the body of her husband Sudheer Warrieth, who died in Friday's plane accident in Kozhikode in Kerala . The deceased was confirmed Covid-19 positive.(AP)

Some of the more desperate people were seen engaged in heated conversation with harried hospital workers who tried to ensure Covid-19 protocol that meant no crowding.

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An aged woman was crying in one corner of a private hospital. Her 32-year-old son survived the crash but she was told he received serious brain injury and was on ventilator.

Among those who waited anxiously outside the Baby Memorial Hospital in Kozhikode was P Noufal. His sister Nafia and her five year-old daughter were there in the ill-fated flight. While his injured sister was brought to the Baby Memorial Hospital her daughter was not seen around. He made several rounds to many hospitals on Saturday and finally found his niece in a private hospital with her both legs bandaged.

Seven-year-old twins Zain and Zamil were lucky. They had received minor injuries and were discharged from the hospital in the morning but fear was writ large on their faces.

Mohamad Riyaz (25) was forced to come on leave by his parents to see a suitable bride for him. His body lies in a mortuary waiting for the Covid-19 test. The state government has made it clear that all bodies will have to undergo Covid-19 tests. Among the dead are five children below 10 years. There were four pregnant women on board and out of them one died and two are in hospital.

“We were happy when we were about to land and I told my wife sitting beside me that rain was a welcome sign. But it was short-lived. Suddenly there were big jerks and loud cries. I tumbled out of my seat and lost consciousness. When I opened my eyes at the hospital I was happy to see my injured wife. A pregnant woman, who was sitting beside us, was not so lucky,” said a survivor.

“We received 44 patients with four deaths including pilot Deepak Sathe and co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar. Initially there was some confusion but we managed it well later. Out of 44 patients seven are critical,” said Dr Azad Moopan, MD of Aster Health Care, a leading health chain in Kerala.

Local people who were the first to reach the accident site won praise for their efforts, have been asked to go into quarantine. Survivors and officials alike vouched that they saved many of the trapped passengers.

After one of the dead tested positive on Saturday, local rescuers have been asked to go into quarantine by state health minister K K Shailaja but praise poured in from many quarters.

“The state will always remember their work but we have to take precautions also,” she said. Since it was an evacuation flight it carried many aged, children and pregnant women.

“It was a miracle we limited the damage. Local people who were the first to reach the spot turned into real heroes. The entered the aircraft which was billowing smoke risking their lives to save many. We have one point to save maximum lives and they played a stellar role in it,” said Malappuram district collector K Gopalakrishnan who reached the spot in 30 minutes.

”It was raining heavily and we suddenly heard a deafening sound and aircraft came out of the boundary wall and fell on the road. We couldn’t believe it. Soon we heard cries for help. Smoke was billowing and there was a smell of fuel also. It was a heart-rending scene once we entered it with much difficulty,” said Mohamad Sahal one of the first to reach the spot. He said they took out at least two dozen people before the rescue team arrived.

“Initially we did not wait for ambulances and evacuated many in private vehicles and taxis. We also helped police in controlling vehicles to make way for ambulances. The pilot was not dead when we retrieved him from a mangle of debris,” said P Afzal, another local resident. He did not identify the pilot.

“I saw an old man crying for help and I tried to pull him out. But his limb came off, but still I took him out and carried him on my shoulders to the nearby vehicle,” said Abhilash, a college student.

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