x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Friends, families grieve for Azza Air crew

Ann de Leon does not want to know the names of the six crew members killed in Wednesday's crash of an Azza Air Transport cargo plane.

Sharjah // Ann de Leon does not want to know the names of the six crew members killed in Wednesday's crash of an Azza Air Transport cargo plane. She is the front office manager of the Sharjah Rotana Hotel, and for nearly a decade Azza has used the hotel to house its crews during stopovers. She had come to know most of them well. "I don't even want to read the papers to know the names of the people who died," she said. "I am still nervous about it, especially if it's one of those I really know."

For the past several days, the hotel has hosted relatives of the Boeing 707's crew. Nassir Mohiudin Fateh, 40, flew from his home in London when he learned his brother Mohammed Fateh, a flight engineer, had died in the crash. "I last talked to him that fateful day in the morning," Mr Fateh said. "He told me he didn't have a flight that day, so when I heard about the crash on the news I called him again on his Sudan number, and his wife answered the phone."

She told him Mohammed Fateh had been called to work because the original crew for the trip to Sharjah had problems. Mr Fateh then told her he had heard the company's plane had crashed. "After making more calls we confirmed he was among the crew that crashed," Mr Fateh said. "Our next prayer was there should be survivors and he should be among them. "We were told there were no survivors. Now our prayer is for Allah to have mercy on his soul."

Mohammed Fateh was the second born in a family of 15 children. Because the elder child was a daughter who married at an early age, he helped raise his 13 siblings. Nassir Fateh said his brother was a religious man who built a mosque in Omdurman, and that people in the city would remember him for that. Ahmad Mohammed Ali, the elder son of the deceased pilot, Hayder Ahmed Mohammed Ali, also said his father was not supposed to be on the plane. It was his off day, but he was called in at the last moment.

"What should I tell you, that is fate and only fate, God have mercy on my father," Mr Ali, 30, said as he broke into tears. Mr Ali said he was happy to learn his father appeared to have struggled to prevent the plane from crashing into houses, possibly saving scores of lives. "I know God would reward him the best for this. It takes real bravery for a man to decide to die alone and save many others," Mr Ali said.

Hassan, a son of a crew member named Dallardin, said his father told him many times recently to have patience and work hard. "I believe it when Muslims say a soul is dead for 40 days before its physical death," Hassan said. "I now think of every word he told me as he approached this fateful day. "They were so strange, and I wondered why he had to tell me all that. But now I understand; it was important."

Dallardin's father said he was worried about the future without his son. "My son was the provider of everything. He provided to me, to my two other daughters, to his mother and then even to his family. "Now I don't know what is going to happen next," he said as he counted the family members on his fingers. @Email:ykakande@thenational.ae