Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 September 2020

Kerala plane crash: shocked families of UAE passengers recount last moments with loved ones

Manal Ahamed, 25, a four-month pregnant woman, was among those who died in the accident

Families and friends of passengers on the ill-fated Air India Express flight from Dubai recalled their last moments with loved ones.

UAE resident Shafi Parakkulam said he has been in shock since he learnt about the death of his friend Sharafu Pilassery on Friday.

Pilassery, 35, who worked as a salesman in Sharjah, was with Mr Parakkulam hours before he boarded Flight IX-1344 with his wife Ameena Pilassery and four-year-old daughter Isa Fatima.

Pilassery also posted a family picture on Facebook in protective face shields, masks and white bodysuits before take off, with a caption “Back to Home”.

Unfortunately, he could not reach home.

Sharafu Pilassery, 35, who worked as a salesman in Sharjah, was killed in the accident. Courtesy: Shafi Parakkulam
Sharafu Pilassery, 35, who worked as a salesman in Sharjah, was killed in the accident. Courtesy: Shafi Parakkulam

He was killed with 17 others when the flight skidded off Runway 10 while landing at the airport in Kozhikode in the Indian state of Kerala.

The plane fell in a gorge 35 feet below, splitting into two pieces.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Saturday that 149 people were injured, of whom 23 were in critical condition.

Pilassery’s wife survived, but their daughter is battling for life at Kozhikode Medical College.

The two came to the UAE to visit Mr Parakkulam in December but were unable to return because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“I cannot believe he is no more. He came to my restaurant hours before boarding the plane and gave me some money to feed the poor. He had a heart of gold,” Mr Parakkulam, who runs an Indian restaurant in Sharjah, told The National.

Anoop Kulangarath is one of the fortunate passengers who survived the tragic crash with a fractured shoulder. Courtesy: Anoop Kulangarath
Anoop Kulangarath is one of the fortunate passengers who survived the tragic crash with a fractured shoulder. Courtesy: Anoop Kulangarath

“He was worried about quarantine and even cried saying he was not feeling good about travelling.

“I told him to relax and be happy because he was going home. I did not know we would never meet again.”

The two met three years ago but their friendship grew stronger during the past few months when they bonded together to help the needy.

“He would often come to my restaurant to help me feed the poor. He was a benevolent man and never hesitated helping others in need,” said Mr Parakkulam.

“It is unbelievable that we have lost such a wonderful man. His wife is fine, but I am worried about his daughter.”

Manal Ahamed, 25, a four-month pregnant woman was also among those who died in the crash.

She was flying to India to be with her family in time for her baby's delivery in December.

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Her brother-in-law, Mohammad Shafiq Puthalath, said she was in Dubai to visit her husband Athis Ismail but could not return as flights were cancelled.

“She wanted to return home before her delivery. Her husband is flying to India today. I can’t talk, this is a huge shock for the family,” Mr Puthalath said.

“I looked for her in all the hospitals and later found her at Kozhikode Medical Hospital. She was already dead when she was brought to the hospital.”

Unlike a similar disaster in Mangalore city a decade ago in which 158 people lost their lives, several passengers were lucky to have survived Friday's crash.

Anoop Kulangarath survived the crash with a fractured shoulder.

A lift operator in Dubai, the 36-year-old was travelling to meet his wife Soorya Kulangarath, and two children, aged 6, and 1.

“He called me at 3.30pm before boarding the plane. He was thrilled to meet us. I was waiting for his plane to land but then I saw the news on TV. I couldn’t believe it. I was in disbelief,” Ms Kulangarath said.

After the news broke, Mr Kulangarath’s 63-year-old father Narayana Kuruppe searched hospitals for him.

Mr Kulangarath Jr was taken to Iqraa Hospital, where he borrowed somebody’s phone and spoke with his family.

He went through surgery successfully on Saturday.

“I burst into tears when I heard he is alive. I couldn’t stop thanking God. I hugged my children and told them that their father was alive. I never felt this happy before,” his wife said.

Updated: August 9, 2020 04:14 PM

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