Dubai: One of the victims of Friday’s Dubai-Kozhikode flight crash, who was declared positive for COVID-19 after his death, had survived the deadly coronavirus in May and tested negative again before flying, his flat mate here said.
Sudheer Variyath, 45, succumbed to his injuries a couple of hours after the plane crash that killed 18 people when the flight overshot the runway in Calicut International Airport and nosedived 35feet down a slope before breaking into two parts.
Sudheer was the last person to be declared dead after the crash. However, reports from Kerala said officials announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 in the test conducted after the crash.
Because of this, his mortal remains could not be handed over to his family for cremation in Malappuram district where he had built a new house last year. Instead, the cremation was done in the public crematorium in Kozhikode district.
Sources told Gulf News that Sudheer’s swab samples were tested twice using the TrueNat machine, a diagnostic machine which was previously used for detecting tuberculosis, and later approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research for conducting the coronavirus test.
Sources said the test results came out positive for coronavirus both times.
‘RT-PCR test before flight was negative’
Prashob Tharammal Keeri, one of his flatmates in Dubai, told Gulf News that Sudheer had contracted coronavirus in mid-April along with him and three other flatmates.
“He occupied one room of a three-bedroom apartment in which five of all in all stayed. He worked from home since March. Only one of us used to go to the office. All of us got tested when one of his colleagues became COVID positive and we also developed symptoms. We were all taken to different isolation facilities in Dubai.”
He said Sudheer was isolated in the Al Warsan facility and recovered by May first week.
Before he took the flight to leave the UAE for good, Sudheer had tested negative for COVID-19 in an RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) test, which is considered the most accurate test for COVID-19, Prashob said.
“He decided to do the test again before flying because his wife had checked with health officials in Kerala about the need for it since he had the disease some months back.”
Since they were worried if he would test positive in antibody tests at the airport, Sudheer’s wife Sunitha was advised to tell her husband to carry the previous medical documents related to the infection and also a freshly done negative PCR test report.
“He had carried all these documents with him. Unfortunately, there was nobody to explain all these details to the authorities. It was the driver who went to pick him up from the airport who ran around to find out in which hospital he was admitted,” said Prashob.
A Twitter post by a journalist in Kerala showed an inconsolable Sunitha and a female relative, both wearing full PPE sets, waiting outside the mortuary at the Kozhikode Medical College where Sudheer’s mortal remains were later shifted to.
Praveen Kumar, a social worker volunteering for the Indian Consulate in Dubai, said he was the one who helped Sudheer and his flat mates to be isolated when they tested positive in April.
“I have informed the NORKA department in Kerala about what exactly happened and requested to give a clarification that probably he might have tested positive due to the antibodies,” he said.
Prashob said he was still struggling to come to terms with the tragic death of Sudheer who resigned from his job and flew home to spend the rest of his life with his family in the house he built last year.
He had sent his wife and two children back to Kerala when the construction of his dream house named Meadows began two years ago.
He had decided to resign from the Norwegian firm by the end of this year.
“But he changed his plan after the pandemic hit and he got infected. He decided to resign and leave earlier. He was happy to fly home and spend the rest of his life with his family in Kerala.”
“As we were working from home since March, we had spent a lot of time together in the past few months. My heart sank when I heard the news and prayed hard that his name would appear in the list of survivors. It is still difficult to believe that he died this way,” said the landscape designer.
He said Sudheer is survived by his wife, young children, a mother who is recovering from cancer and a widowed aunt.