Kerala plane crash: We heard a loud thud, and screams of the crew members, says survivor

Updated: 09 August, 2020 20:01 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Passengers of the Air Indian Express flight that crashed in Calicut on Friday evening recall the nightmarish journey

First responders inspect the wreckage of an Air India Express jet, which was carrying more than 190 passengers and crew from Dubai, after it crashed by overshooting the runway at Calicut International Airport in Karipur, on Friday. Pic/AFP
First responders inspect the wreckage of an Air India Express jet, which was carrying more than 190 passengers and crew from Dubai, after it crashed by overshooting the runway at Calicut International Airport in Karipur, on Friday. Pic/AFP

Fasten your seat belt, we are experiencing bad weather… the plane is set for landing shortly". These were the last instructions for the passengers from the cockpit of the ill-fated Air India Express IX-1344 Dubai- Calicut, flight," recalls Ashraf Pulikkiyath, 55, who was fortunate to have survived the crash with minor injuries. "I was occupying seat no. 31B, which is located in the last row, towards the tail of the plane. The entire flight went smoothly, but as we entered the Calicut airbase, we began experiencing turbulence," adds Pulikkiyath, a resident of Malappuram, Kerala.

Pulikkiyath says that when an attempt was made to land the plane, it had crossed over half-a-kilometre of the runway. "We heard a loud thud, and screams of the crew members, who were occupying the seats behind us. Almost immediately, the hand luggage kept in the overhead racks fell on top of passengers, and I fell unconscious thereafter."

Irfan sustained minor injuries and his wife Kadeeja Nasrin is in the ICU
Irfan sustained minor injuries and his wife Kadeeja Nasrin is in the ICU

A few minutes later, Pulikkiyath regained consciousness, but he was still trapped inside the plane. He says he was rescued almost an hour later. Pulikkiyath, who worked as a security guard at a private residential building in Fujairah Dubai for nearly eight years, has been in the Gulf for 35 years.

"I was earning about 1,000 UAE dirham (approximate R20,000) and was residing in a room provided on society premises. But the owner of the property had sold his rights recently, and the new owners were not keen on having someone of my age as a guard. After they terminated my service, I was struggling to find a new job. Finally, I gave up and decided to return home," says Pulikkiyath, a father of four young daughters.

Sree Manikandan Meldam
Sree Manikandan Meldam

While Pulikkiyath is happy he survived the crash and plans on using this new lease on life by providing for his children, he is upset he lost all his luggage and the gifts that he had got for his family. "I spent almost 3,000 UAE dirham (nearly R60,000) in purchasing these household items and gifts; all of which is now lost in the crash," he rues.

Like Pulikkiyath, two more passengers managed to cheat death. Mohammed Iqbal, 64, and his wife Faseela, 48, residents of Malappuram, were waiting for their son Irfan, 30, and daughter-in-law Kadeeja Nasrin, 24, to join them for dinner. The couple was returning home after two years. "Around 8 pm, a friend informed me about the crash. I didn't want to tell my wife, so I switched on the TV to confirm the news. We had no way of reaching their phones. But around late night, I received a call from Irfan saying they were fine and in a hospital in Calicut. While Irfan escaped with a minor injury, Nasrin was in the ICU with a fracture, which now needs surgical intervention."

Ashraf Pulikkiyath
Ashraf Pulikkiyath

Sree Manikandan Meldam, 50, a Palakkad resident, was the first to jump out of the emergency exit, as he was close to the door. Speaking to mid-day, Meldam said, "It had been raining quite heavily in Kerala for the past few days, but we did not expect for things to get so bad. I watched the plane landing, and then turning its direction towards the Airport Authority of India gate no. 8, subsequently falling into a gorge. I heard screams of passengers sitting in the front row. I figured that the emergency door was open, and immediately jumped out of the plane."

Meldam was working as a labour supervisor and was in Dubai for the last 1.5 years. After he lost his job due to mass layoffs in his company due to the pandemic, he thought of returning home. His daughter, Vaishnavi, 20, who is studying pharmacology, said, "We anticipated him to reach home by 11 pm, but when we saw the news, we got worried. Fortunately, he managed to give us a ring and inform that he was fine and in the hospital with minor injuries."

According to sources, the airplane had around 190 passengers including six crew members. One passenger, Prashant Shatim, 43, a native of Andhra Pradesh, was deported by Dubai authorities. Majority of those on the flight were those who had lost their jobs. There were also schoolchildren, who were returning to India, after their parents lost jobs and couldn't afford their education.

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First Published: 09 August, 2020 07:20 IST

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