Dubai: It’s 2.30am on July 26. Eight employees of Kebab Rolls restaurant in Al Barsha are ready to go home. It’s been a particularly busy night as they’ve served over 350 guests.
Like always, they are seated on the window ledge outside the ground-floor Asian restaurant, waiting for their pick-up van to arrive from the basement. Three of them are at the first window and five at the second to the right.
Suddenly, head cook Jasem, who is at the second window, notices a black Mercedes SLR 500 hurtling towards them. “Bhaago, bhaago (run, run),” he shouts out to the others, dashing to the far right. Three colleagues at the second window manage to join him. But the rest are not as lucky.
The car driver, an Angolan speeding along the curb on the left, loses control. He rams into the three employees at the first window, smashing through the full-length glass pane and screeching to a halt halfway through the kitchen inside. Twenty-two year-old assistant cooks Mohammad Ejaz and Sonu Kumar and helper Gyanu Gautam, 21, are crushed to death. Assistant cook Satish Kumar at the second window is injured while running for his life.
“The horrific images of that deadly night will never go away. We can never forget the sight of the mutilated young bodies,” said Irfan Ali Siddiki, restaurant general manager.
When XPRESS visited the Kebab Rolls kitchen on July 28, it made for a ghastly sight. Broken blocks of pre-fabricated concrete lay everywhere, some smeared with telling blood stains. The black and red shoes of the deceased were all that was left of them. The kitchen’s heavy equipment, including five sinks, two chillers, two cutting tables, a dishwasher and a tandoor, were destroyed. Pieces of white China were scattered all over. In the midst of it all, lay the car bumper and the headrest from one seat.
Traffic prosecutors have charged the 21-year-old Angolan driver with wrecking the restaurant in addition to killing three people. They told Gulf News the man was drunk and had 136mg/dl of alcohol in his blood. It was reported that his driving licence had expired 17 months ago. There were two other Angolan men in the car besides a Brazilian woman who was also injured in the accident. Investigations are underway and the accused could face three to seven years in jail.
Sense of loss
The extent of damage to the restaurant is yet to be estimated as the management is still reeling in shock. Restaurant owner Kishwar Ahmad said: “We have three branches across Dubai with 28 staff in our Al Barsha branch alone. We are a family with a strong bonding. We have no words to describe our sense of loss.”
Ahmad had apparently approached the Roads and Transport Authority last year, seeking a speed breaker at the curb as it is a dangerous bend.
Kebab Rolls branch manager Amir Noor Khan, who was at the restaurant, said: “I first thought it was an accident on the road, never imagined it involved our own men. I immediately called 999, the police and our owners, all of whom rushed to the spot. I have not been able to sleep since that night — all I can think of is the bodies. Just minutes earlier, these were perfectly happy men going about their life. The pain will remain forever in our hearts.”
His colleague Kamrul said he was in the main restaurant area when the accident happened. “I heard a loud bang and thought it was a blast. I ran outside and was shocked to see Satish Kumar lying in a pool of blood. He was not unconscious, but trembling. There was utter chaos as we discovered the bodies of Ejaz, Sonu and Gautam inside in the kitchen.”
Dreams and aspirations
Siddiki said: “Dubai is not a place where we have to dodge bullets or run for our lives. So it’s very traumatic when something like this happens. No one can imagine a death so bizarre. We have lost three young lives and with them their dreams and aspirations.”
He said assistant cook Mohammad Ejaz, 22, was from Skardu in Pakistan and had been with the company for three years. “His visa was due for renewal and he was keen to visit his native place as his parents wanted to get him married. Tandoor was his forte and he had a promising career before him.”
Assistant cook Sonu Kumar, 22, was from Lucknow in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. “He was our chaat specialist. He loved life and wanted to be a bike rider like his brother and was in the process of getting a licence. He was working with us for five years.”
Operations Manager Sharif Awan said Gyanu Gautam, 21, from Nepal, was very friendly and ever smiling. “In Nepal, he was part of a dance troupe. So whenever we had a get-together, he would sing and dance. These three men were our darlings.”
Siddiki said breaking the news of the deaths to their families was not easy.
“All three have brothers working here in Dubai and we immediately informed them. The bodies are at the mortuary now. Once the formalities are completed, we will be sending them to their home countries accompanied by a family member.
“We cannot bring their lives back, but we will do everything we can to get justice for their families.”
The restaurant is likely to reopen next week. Its Discovery Gardens and Bur Dubai branches were closed for three days to mourn the deaths.