x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Widower tells of grief over losing wife in recent air crash

A Pakistani man from Abu Dhabi describes the devastation of the day he lost his wife in the Bhoja Air crash.

A recent photo of Izhar Ahmed and his wife, Rakhshanda, who was killed in the Bhoja Air crash in Pakistan on April 20.
A recent photo of Izhar Ahmed and his wife, Rakhshanda, who was killed in the Bhoja Air crash in Pakistan on April 20.

DUBAI // Izhar Ul Haq was waiting in Karachi to board a flight back to Abu Dhabi on April 20 when he heard that a Bhoja Air flight had crashed.

Just a few hours earlier he had watched at Jinnah International Airport as his wife Rakhshanda, 25, boarded Flight 213 for Islamabad.

After finding her seat, she called her husband to say goodbye.

"She told me that she was in the middle seat with people sitting on either side," he said. "She told me to take care of myself and call her regularly. That was our last conversation.

"We had a great time at the airport together before she boarded the flight. We spoke a lot and took many pictures. I showed her the plane she would be flying on.

"She appeared a bit gloomy and said that she worried she would not be able to see me again. I don't know why she said that."

It was a cousin in Abu Dhabi who first called Izhar to tell him a plane had crashed.

"He asked me which flight my wife was travelling on and when I told him about the name of the plane, he said it had crashed," he said.

"I collapsed in the airport. It was the worst moment of my life."

Later, other relatives and friends began calling Izhar to tell him about the crash and ask after Rakhshanda.

The Bhoja Air flight, with 127 passengers onboard, crashed near Rawalpindi just 10 minutes before its scheduled landing time of 6.50pm. There were no survivors.

"I still had hope my wife would be alive," Izhar said. "It was only in the morning that I came to know that she was dead.

"I waited all night in the airport, praying for her safety. Then I took a flight to Islamabad in the morning and saw her body."

Izhar first saw Rakhshanda at a relative's house in 2006.

"I liked her a lot. She looked nice and friendly," he said. "Later on we met each other a number of times and it was my elder brother who finalised everything and arranged our marriage."

More than 200 people attended their 2008 wedding in his native Swabi district, about 100 kilometres outside Islamabad.

"It was the happiest day of my life. We went shopping three days before marriage. She bought me a ring and I gave her necklace and bracelet. She was very happy."

Izhar, who works as an office clerk at Tetra Emirates in Abu Dhabi, had been on holiday with Rakhshanda in Karachi.

"She always wanted to come to the UAE and stay with me but she couldn't due to financial difficulties," he said.

"She was a good wife: a well-wisher and a good friend. I loved her more than my life. I can't imagine living without her."

When he eventually returns to the UAE, Izhar will have the support of his brother, Mohammed Zaman, who works at a construction company in Abu Dhabi.

"He is devastated," said Mohammed. "He loved her so much and remembers her all the time. We are trying to console him to overcome the tragedy."

Bhoja Air began domestic operations in Pakistan in 1993 and expanded to running international flights to the UAE in 1998.

The company suspended operations in 2001 due to financial difficulties but resumed this year.

The plane Rakhshanda was on was a 28-year-old Boeing 737-200, a civil aviation authority (CAA) official told AFP.

Pervez George, a spokesman for the CAA, said investigations into the crash had begun.

"A senior member is heading the probe and we will soon know the results of the investigation," Mr George said, adding the authority had launched a comprehensive inspection of aeroplanes being flown by private Pakistani airlines, including those flying to the UAE.

"All private airline flights are being inspected," he said.

For Izhar, the inspections come too late.

"My life is destroyed. I don't know if I will ever be able to get back on track and become normal."

frahman@thenational.ae