Dubai bus crash: families renew call to replace barrier

Sister of Roshni Moolchandani, who died in June 2019 crash, is visiting Dubai to seek legal support for families

Almost two years after a bus crash in Dubai killed 17 passengers, relatives of victims continue to seek answers.

Sapna Moolchandani lost her younger sister, Roshni, when an Omani bus driver smashed into an overhead height restriction barrier while driving at twice the approved speed limit on June 6, 2019.

The elder Ms Moolchandani, 29, is visiting Dubai from India in the hope of reminding authorities that the families of those who died are still struggling to cope.

She lit incense sticks at the crash site this week in memory of her sister and the other victims.

The barrier should have been crushed and not the bus

Sapna Moolchandani

“Emotionally, it has been very painful. But I needed to come to this spot and face this,” said Ms Moolchandani, who works as a software engineer in Bengaluru, southern India.

“Many families have lost their breadwinner. We wanted to find out what the status of the case is and what we could do.”

The travellers were returning from Muscat after the Eid break when the driver took a wrong turn after the Rashidiya exit and entered a lane not designated for buses.

He missed the warning chain and struck the solid barrier at speed, cleaving the top left section of the bus.

Sapna Moolchandani lights incense sticks in memory of her sister Roshni, among 17 passengers who were killed nearly two years ago in a bus accident near the Al Rashidiya exit in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Sapna Moolchandani lights incense sticks in memory of her sister Roshni, among 17 passengers who were killed nearly two years ago in a bus accident near the Al Rashidiya exit in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

This week, the 53-year-old bus driver had his jail sentence reduced to one year by the Court of Appeal.

He had previously been sentenced to seven years in jail by the Dubai Traffic Court and ordered to pay Dh3.4 million as blood money compensation.

Ms Moolchandani met Dr Aman Puri, Consul General of India, to request legal representation for the families in the case since most live overseas.

A dozen Indians, two Pakistanis, an Irish woman, an Omani and a Filipina were killed in the crash.

Relatives have repeatedly asked for swifter resolution of the case.

Dr Puri said his office would provide assistance and send an advisory on the next steps as well as organising a tele-legal counselling session for the families.

He told The National he was “very hopeful that the families of the victims will be able to have the judgment executed soon, after which they will be in a position to file for compensation.”

Relatives repeated their appeal for the steel barrier to be replaced with lighter material to prevent another tragedy.

Such barriers are placed to alert drivers of large vehicles about upcoming bridges. In this case, the road led to a multi-storey metro car park.

Dubai's Road and Transport Authority declined to comment because the legal case is ongoing but maintained it adhered to international safety standards with sufficient signs, road bumps and a height restriction chain to warn motorists about the barrier.

Traffic prosecutors said there had been no accidents at the crash site in the preceding decade.

The driver’s lawyer said his client was "not responsible" and blamed the road layout that breached safety norms. He submitted studies in court to indicate the steel barrier should have been made of material that gave way on impact.

Families of the dead agree with that argument.

“The barrier should have been crushed and not the bus,” Ms Moolchandani said.

“It is a minor thing to replace a barrier knowing that it took away lives and made 17 families miserable.

“Ours has been an irreplaceable loss, we don’t want any family to suffer the pain we are going through.”

Zidan Firoz Pathan, a survivor of the crash, also appealed for the barrier to be replaced with a lighter material. He still has nightmares of the day he lost his parents, Firoz Khan and Reshma Pathan.

“I can’t ever forget the sound. Yes, the driver took the wrong route and is to blame. But if some softer material was used and a bus hit the sign, so many people would not die,” he said.

Manisha Thakur was widowed at 30 when her husband Vikram died in the tragedy. She joined in the appeal to replace the barrier.

“Any material that would just alert a driver and not destroy everything is what we are hoping will change,” she said.

Ms Moolchandani also visited Five Palm Jumeirah, the hotel her sister worked in and met her colleagues.

An aspiring model, Roshni was 22 when she died and had more than 50,000 followers on Instagram.

“She called Dubai her paradise. This city gave Roshni her dreams,” she said.

“I was scared making this journey but I really needed to see the office she sat in, speak to her colleagues.

“We miss her terribly but I also have a sense of pride for what she achieved.”

Updated: February 26, 2021 10:21 AM

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