x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Dubai man longs for wife and children lost in Air India crash

Man devastated by air crash that killed wife and two young children says he finds it difficult to carry on.

Man devastated by air crash that killed wife and two young children says he finds it difficult to carry on.
Man devastated by air crash that killed wife and two young children says he finds it difficult to carry on.

DUBAI // On the first anniversary of the fatal Air India Express flight, friends and family members of victims in the UAE and India stopped to remember.

"Every day is a day of condolence for me," said Santosh Rai, a year after his wife and two of his children died on Flight 812 from Dubai to Mangalore.

"I don't know why I am still alive. I am a person without any feelings now. It is so difficult to carry on. My wife and children's things remain untouched in the house."

Mr Rai's wife Reshma died in the crash with their son Naland, 10, and eight-month-old daughter Viha.

"My children and wife burnt to death. I couldn't even get to see their bodies because they had been charred," he said.

His older son, Milind, was not on the plane. He is now in India with his wife's family.

Mr Rai, 47, and Rehsma met when they were studying law in Mangalore."We had been together for 24 years. We were classmates. She joined me in Dubai after completing her law studies," he said.

The couple had made Dubai their home for 20 years and their children were born in the Emirates. His two-bedroom flat in Karama still holds memories of the family - photos, clothes, school bags, toys and children's bicycles.

"My house is a mess," said Mr Rai, a training co-ordinator with an Abu Dhabi-based aluminium company. "If I remove them or give it away to charity it would be the end of story. I still feel they are here.

"Every day was fun in our lives. We travelled all over the UAE, played cricket and just had a lot of fun together. I loved my family and children so much. I never let them travel alone. That day was the first time they went alone."

Other families and friends of the victims marked the anniversary yesterday in their own ways.

The Dubai Air India office held a two-minute silent prayer.

"We received an advisory from the corporate office in India to conduct a prayer meeting," said Abhay Pathak, the regional manager for Middle East and Africa.

A few families gathered at the site of the crash in Mangalore and held a brief prayer at the memorial built soon after the crash, which had been vandalised.

So a temporary memorial of cinder blocks and cement was built last week in preparation for yesterday.

In Kasargod, Kerala, which borders Karnataka, and to where many victims were travelling last year, private prayer meetings were held in homes.

Narayanan Nair, who lost his brother Gangadharan, gathered with his brother's family in Kasargod for a Hindu ceremony. Gangadharan, a sales executive, had taken a month's leave to help his brother set up his new business.

"Soon after, his wife and children returned to us," said Mr Nair. "Today, like every day, we will remember him."

pkannan@thenational.ae