Dubai: Seven-year-old Zain and Zamil used to love playing in water. A month after they had a miraculous escape from the Dubai-Kozhikode Air India Express plane crash on the rainy night of August 7, the twin brothers are scared even when water gushes out of their bathroom shower.
Survivors, including children and families of the victims, are still struggling to cope with the tragedy that resulted in the death of the pilot, co-pilot and 16 passengers on the spot, while three more passengers died in the next couple of weeks.
Aravindakshan K.K, 67, Ebrahim V.P, 53 and Manjula Kumari, 37, lost their battle for life on August 16, 22 and 23, respectively.
The other deceased included a pregnant woman, a groom, two young mothers and four children, whose families are still grieving the loss of their loved ones.
Eleven survivors are still under treatment for serious injuries at various hospitals in the south Indian state of Kerala while 159 persons have been discharged after receiving medical treatment, according to a spokesperson for the airline.
“Air India Express has been promptly settling all hospital bills and all related expenditures incurred by passengers and their kith and kin,” P.G. Prageesh, chief of Corporate Communications, AIE, told Gulf News over the phone.
He said the airline had placed its representatives at each of the 21 hospitals to be available at hand for any assistance to passengers and their relatives.
Scars on the road to recovery
As they continue to count their blessings, many survivors on the road to recovery are hoping that the scars on their minds and bodies will heal soon.
Zain and Zamil, who survived the crash along with their mother and two elder siblings, keep getting nightmares and are scared of loud sounds too, their father Anshad told Gulf News on Monday.
“They have been given counselling and everyone is trying to cheer them up. They used to attend online classes even when they were here on a visit. None of my kids attended classes after the crash,” said Anshad who lives in Sharjah.
He is also deeply concerned about the injuries of his eldest son Ziyan, 14, who is now bedridden with multiple fractures on both his legs.
“Doctors said it will take some more months for him to recover. We just want him heal soon and start walking.”
The injuries to his wife Shahina and daughter Zeya, 10, have healed. “But Shahina still gets pain and aches in the head and all over her body,” said Anshad who couldn't visit his family due to his work commitments.
Another young survivor, 11-year-old Insha, is also on bed rest with a fractured leg, her mother Shamila said over the phone from Kerala.
“She needs to have the plaster on for some more weeks,” said Shamila who survived the crash with all three of her children, who are former students of Sharjah Indian School.
‘He is overjoyed wherever he is today’
Amid all the heartbreaks that followed the tragedy, Megha Shukla, the wife of co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar, who was killed in the crash, delivered a baby on Saturday, September 6.
Reports from India said Megha, who was weeks away from the delivery when her husband died, was under constant observation by a medical team ever since the crash. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy weighing 2.75kg around 3.16pm (Indian time), the hospital announced.
“For us, the baby’s birth rekindles the happiness and joy that Akhilesh radiated in our lives. We are extremely happy and we know that he is overjoyed wherever he is today,” the family said in a statement.
Flight IX1344 had 128 male passengers, 46 female passengers and 10 infants, who were returning to India from the UAE due to various reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The special repatriation flight under India’s Vande Bharat Mission skidded off and overshot the tabletop runway during a downpour at the Kozhikode International Airport in Malappuram district. The aircraft then nosedived 35 feet down a valley before breaking into two.
Timely rescue efforts by the local residents in Malappuram, who ignored the threat of COVID-19, along with the authorities, helped in saving the lives of many passengers.
Prageesh said the airline could not thank the local people enough for risking their lives to save the lives of the passengers and crew.
“We had officially acknowledged our deepest gratitude to them. We also provided provisions for one month for the 600 families while they were asked to be in quarantine, though that is nothing compared to the great service they did.”
Shamila said she and her children wished to meet and personally thank all the local residents who were involved in the rescue operations.
“Some of them still call up and enquire about our health. We hope we can meet all of them once the corona scare is over. It was painful to hear some people testing positive for COVID-19 later. But some of them said it was because they were from the containment zone. Anyhow I have been praying for all of them,” Shamila added.
She also wished to meet a passenger who specifically saved her life and that of her children.
“I still remember the face of that passenger who kept holding the broken upper part of the plane without letting it crash on me and my kids till we managed to get up and move to a safer place. He kept us safe from everything that was falling off —bags, AC pipes, electrical wires — even when there were some scary sparks. I can never forget him. I hope one day I can meet him and thank him,” she said.