Dubai: Sumayya Thasneem lost her only child, two-year-old Aysha Dua, after the Dubai-Kozhikode Air India Express flight crashed upon landing in Kozhikode on this day last year.
Aysha’s was one of the 21 lives lost after flight IX 1344 skidded off and overshot the tabletop runway at the Calicut International Airport in the south Indian state of Kerala on August 7, 2020. The COVID-19 special repatriation flight under India’s Vande Bharat Mission carrying 184 passengers and six crew members nosedived into a valley and broke into two around 7.40pm local time on that rain-soaked night in Kozhikode.
Nineteen passengers — four children, including Aysha — and the pilot and the co-pilot died in the crash.
Sumayya, who was returning home with Aysha after visiting her husband Murthasa Fasal in Dubai, was also thought to have died in the crash, said Fasal while recollecting the crash memories on its first anniversary.
They thought she was dead
“Three men who rushed her and two other passengers to Calicut Medical College in a pick-up truck thought they were carrying her body. One of them called Ali, who sat behind on the cargo bed, later realised she was just unconscious. He was the one who called my family when she became conscious after reaching the hospital.”
Sumayya had sustained multiple fractures and had a steel rod inserted in her leg due to ankle dislocation. She was confined to a wheel-chair for months. She still needs a keyhole surgery for a knee.
Yet, when she finally gathered the courage to fly back to Dubai with Fasal in April this year, Sumayya wanted to meet Ali and thank him.
“She was still struggling to stand properly. We were holding her from behind when she got out of the car on meeting him,” Fasal recollected.
Ali’s two friends, who were with him on that fateful night, were not around and the couple could only meet him. Expressing her token of gratitude, Sumayya also presented a gift to Ali.
“Flying again was a big challenge. She was really scared. Even in the car she gets scared when we go fast or when there is any big sound,” said Fasal.
A year after, the couple is still grieving the loss of their daughter whom they were blessed with after five years of treatment and prayers.
“She was a precious baby,” said an emotional Fasal.
“The most painful death is the death of a child when parents are alive. It haunts them till the end of their lives. We have been going through a tough time for a year now,” he said.
The crash that jolted both the UAE and India has left families like theirs, who lost their loved ones, live in memories and let life go on, while many injured survivors are still struggling to lead normal lives.
Thajina K.P, and her children — 12-year-old son Muhammed Hisham, and eight-year-old daughter Hadiya — are among the survivors who have not gotten back to normal life yet.
The mother of two lost her unborn child and a leg after the crash.
Little Hadiya had suffered fractures on both legs [in the thigh on one leg and below the knee on the other]. Like her brother, she had head injury and fractures on hands also.
“Thajina had to undergo almost a dozen surgeries and her leg was in a cement splint. It was removed two months ago and her bones are now fixed, thankfully. But, she often gets swelling around her amputated knee. Doctors said she might have to go for a second amputation above the knee if the swelling keeps coming,” said Abdul Rasheed, Thajina's husband, an accountant based in Dubai.
"Hisham had undergone a surgery to fix his ankle fracture. He still requires three more plastic surgeries on his right leg. His left leg also requires surgery. Doctors say next surgeries can be done after he turns 18. I am planning to seek a second opinion when I go down to Kerala again in September for my daughter’s surgery for removing a metal rod in her thigh. She had undergone another surgery below the knee also,” Rasheed added.
New chapters in life
While the mental and physical trauma lingers on for several UAE residents and their families like Fasal’s and Abdul Rasheed’s, some others hit by the crash have begun new chapters in life in the past year.
Muhammed Nijas, who had lost his wife Sahira Banu, 29 and ten-month-old son Azam Muhammed—the youngest victim—has got married again to another woman who has gone through a similar tragedy.
“Her husband had died on August 6, 2019 after falling from a building while I lost my wife on August 7, 2020. She [His new wife] has an eight-year-old daughter,” Nijas told Gulf News over the phone from Kerala.
His two elder children—Lahan, nine, and Mariyam, four — were among those who had a miraculous escape in the crash.
Since the children are still small, the families of Nijas and Sahira felt the need for them to have a mother, said Sahira’s brother Dr Sajjad Hussain.
“All of us took the initiative in getting him [Nijas] married again. It was a simple ceremony,” he said.
Nijas said his children are now happy with their new “ammi” though they occasionally talk about missing their biological mother.
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One more wedding
Meanwhile, a young woman who was scheduled to marry Muhammed Riyas V.P — another crash victim — has also got married to a different person, said Nizamudheen V.P, brother of Riyas who was also injured in the crash.
“Everyone convinced her to get married and finally she agreed. My family had visited her before the wedding and we are still in touch,” said Nizamudheen.
He said he had lost his job at an interior decoration firm in Al Ain when he flew home on the ill-fated flight. Similarly, his neighbour Mohammed Musthafa, who had also accompanied the brothers, had lost his job at a cafeteria.
“I still can’t lift weights and have issues walking. Musthafa needs a crutch to walk,” said Nizamudheen.
He said they were looking forward to adequate final compensation from the airline.