x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Hundreds at memorial for crash victims

Community united in grief gathers to say prayers for their six air crew compatriots who perished in an accident last week.

Relatives and friends carry the bodies of the air crash victims to the ambulance at Sharjah Police Forensic Laboratory in Sharjah.
Relatives and friends carry the bodies of the air crash victims to the ambulance at Sharjah Police Forensic Laboratory in Sharjah.

SHARJAH // Hundreds of mourners attended a memorial yesterday for the six airmen who perished in last week's plane crash near the Sharjah airport. The service was held at the Sharjah Forensic Laboratory minutes after the bodies were released by the police for repatriation back to Sudan.

The bodies of the men who died last Wednesday in the crash of an Azza Air Transport Boeing 707 were laid in front of mourners as a Sudanese imam led them in prayer. During the service, senior members of the Sudanese community in Sharjah consoled their grief-stricken compatriots before they helped to place the bodies into awaiting ambulances. The Sudanese consul general, Issam Awadh, urged the mourners to think of those who died as having been taken to a better world, rather than focus on the accident itself.

"We are here to be witnesses that our beloved ones have achieved martyrdom, an aspiration of every Muslim believer in this world," he said. Salah Ibrahim Kalam a friend of the late pilot, Captain Hayder Ahmed Mohammed Ali, spoke on behalf of the victims' relatives who had flown back to Khartoum earlier in the day on an Emirates Airlines flight. "The fathers, brothers and sons of our beloved martyrs asked me this morning to pass on their thanks to all of you."

He said although many of the relatives had never been to Sharjah before that they had been made to feel welcome. "They have had comfort from you people who have been visiting them [in] their hotel rooms, consoling them, as well as giving assistance." Dr Ali Quba, a Sudanese forensic expert working with Ras al Khaimah Police, led the DNA testing used to help identify the dead men. He told the mourners he and his colleagues had worked tirelessly to complete the task and put their relatives' minds at rest as soon as possible.

"It often takes about 10 days to accomplish the DNA testing for plane crash victims but because of our courtesy we dedicated all the time, day and night, to this work and had the DNA result in only two days." He said it had been possible because all the country's forensic laboratories had worked together. The consul general said he and his staff were being regularly updated on the investigation into the accident.

He said the investigative committee headed by the federal Government had sent the airplane's flight data recorders to London so aviation experts there could try to establish the cause of the crash. He also said the Government had formed a second investigative committee comprising members of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority to help supervise the probe. @Email:ykakande@thenational.ae