Dubai: Reclining in his seat on the bus, Zidan Firoz was watching the skyline as he, along with his parents, were just a few minutes away from reaching the bus station on Thursday evening. The Oman residents were to spend the rest of the Eid holidays in Dubai.
Little did the 19-year-old know that their journey would end in a horrific manner and that his parents would depart for another world as the ill-fated bus crashed into a height barrier on a wrong road taken by the bus driver.
Firoz’s parents were among the 12 Indians that the Indian Consulate in Dubai identified as dead in the crash that killed a total of 17 passengers on the Muscat-Dubai daily bus service by Omani National Transport Company Mwasalat.
The impact of the crash on passengers sitting on the left side of the bus led to them being smashed against the metal barrier, and Zidan’s father Firoz Khan died on the spot. Still shaken by the terrible jolt, Zidan felt his heavily injured mother, Reshma Firoz, still breathing and tried to pull her out of the wreckage. Unfortunately, she also could not make it.
Father, son among victims
While Zidan lost his parents, there was a father-son duo, who also died in the accident.
Ummer Chonokadavath, 65, and his son Nabil Ummer, 25, were among the victims.
“They had to gone to Oman to celebrate Eid with his (Ummer’s) daughter’s family,” a relative told Gulf News.
They hailed from Thalassery in the south Indian state of Kerala.
Victims Deepa Kumar, Jamaludeen Muhammedunni Arakkaveettil, Vimal Kumar Karthikeyan, Kiran Johny and Rajan Puthiyapurayil Gopalan, were also all from Kerala.
Other Indian victims identified by the consulate include Vasudev Vishnudas, Vikram Jawahar Thakur and Roshni Moolchandani.
Wife, child unaware of man’s death
Deepa Kumar, an accountant with Century Mechanical Systems Manufacturing Company, along with her family, had also gone to spend Eid holidays with a cousin in Oman, one of his relatives told Gulf News.
His wife Athira, a former constable with Indo-Tibetan Border Police, and four-year-old daughter Athulya, a KG-1 student in Our Own School Sharjah, sustained minor injuries and were under treatment in Rashid Hospital till Friday afternoon. Relatives who were taking care of them said the news of Deepa Kumar’s death had not been broken to his wife and child. “We are waiting for the formalities to be completed to repatriate his mortal remains. Once that is done, we will have to break the news to them and fly them back home,” said one of the relatives.
Basil, a friend of Kiran Johny, said the engineer from Kerala had come over to the UAE in December last year. “I don’t think he had gone to Muscat. What I heard is that he boarded the bus en route to come to Dubai."
Jamaludeen, who was working for a media firm, was active in community work in Dubai, his friends said. He had gone to Oman to visit his friend during Eid. He had posted a selfie with his friend just before he boarded the ill-fated bus, his friends said.
Former Gulf News intern dies
Roshni Moolchandani, who worked at a hotel, was a media student, who had interned with Gulf News’ design department a couple of years ago.
Gulf News employees were shocked to learn that she was among the victims.
“She was a very dynamic girl. She was very polite and humble. She was quick to learn page designing. She had also written a few articles for tabloid!,” said S.M. Arshad, Gulf News’ design editor.
“She had won some beauty contests and was very fond of modelling. Her father runs a publication of his own and she had worked there also before coming to the UAE.”
The Pakistani Consulate in Dubai confirmed that a Pakistani national named Shafiq hailing from Dera Gazi Khan was among the victims. The mission said he had gone to Oman to renew his visa.
Sources said an Irish woman had also died and her friend was under treatment in Rashid Hospital.
The Omani driver of the Mwasalat bus from Muscat is also under treatment in the same hospital. Dubai Police has recorded his statement, sources said.
According to Haitham Saeed, who told Gulf News that he is the son of the driver Saeed Mohammad, the latter was a seasoned driver who was familiar with the Muscat-Dubai route.
“I don’t know what exactly happened. He said he couldn’t see the height barrier and couldn’t stop the bus in time,” said Haitham, who came to visit his father in the hospital. He said his father had sustained only minor injuries.
Dubai Police had earlier said the driver failed to notice the height warning signs on the exit to the Rashidiya Station from Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road and entered the service road, resulting in the 2.2-metre height barrier ripping into the top-left side of the bus. Police said that the driver was also not following the 40km/h speed limit on the road.
At least six people including Zidan were still undergoing treatment at Dubai’s Rashid Hospital on Friday.
Now pursuing an MBA in Mumbai, Zidan, the only child of his parents, told Gulf News that his family used to visit Dubai on most Eid vacations. They were supposed to meet Saddaf Shaikh, niece of Firoz, for dinner on Thursday.
“I was waiting for their call after reaching Dubai. When Zidan called around 6pm, I thought they were calling after having reached their hotel. I was shocked when he revealed the news of the accident instead,” said Shaikh.
Firoz worked as a senior engineer with Oman Oil Refineries and Petroleum Industries Company (Orpic). A company official, who drove down from Sohar to Rashid Hospital, said they would assist the family to repatriate the bodies of the couple.