Dubai bus crash: survivors tell of traumatic accident that left 17 dead

Some relatives hold off on telling families until they return to India

A bus crash that killed 17 people returning to Dubai on Thursday from an Eid break in Oman, has left families scrambling to cope with the loss of their loved ones.

Of the passengers who died in the accident, 12 were Indian.

Among them was Deepa Kumar, an accountant, who was seated beside his wife, Athira, and daughter, Amulya, 4, when the Mwasalat bus crashed into an overhead barrier. The impact cleaved through the roof of the bus, tearing the left side of the vehicle and killing the passengers seated on that side.

Kumar’s relatives believe he died of internal injuries; his post-mortem report listed “bus accident” as his cause of death.

His wife and daughter, who escaped with bruises, were seated by the window on the right-hand side of the bus.

“Athira and Amulya are in shock. You can see the fear in them because of the scenes they witnessed in the horrific accident,” said a relative, who did not wish to be identified, in Dubai.

The relative said Deepa did not appear to be badly hurt at first.

“Deepa only had a small injury over the eyebrow, that was not very visible, and there were many small gashes because of the glass. Athira still has back and neck pain and is finding it difficult to walk.”

Deepak Kumar died in the bus crash on Thursday. His wife and daughter survived.
Deepa Kumar died in the bus crash on Thursday. His wife and daughter survived.

As of Saturday afternoon, Athira and Amulya had yet to be told of Kumar’s death. Their family chose to wait until they had all returned to India to break the news after struggling to calm the mother and daughter at Rashid Hospital.

The relative told The National that Amulya constantly called for her achan – father in Malayalam – while in hospital. They consoled her by saying he was in the intensive care unit and would meet them in India, where he required further treatment.

A cousin accompanied the mother and daughter home to Trivandrum in southern India's Kerala state on Saturday evening.

“Her parents will be at the airport and they will be with her to console her when she is told,” the relative said.

“Athira was mentally not yet ready to deal with the news when she is so far away from her parents and family. It would have been difficult to manage her during the four-hour flight, so we thought it would be better if she is told by older family members who can care for her,” he said.

Kumar, 40, worked with CMS, an air-filter manufacturing company, in Dubai since 2005 but was in Oman on holiday with his family before the accident.

His wife told Deepa Anil, a social worker who helped the family, that her husband was conscious and spoke to her immediately after the accident. The family were preparing to disembark the bus at Rashidiya Metro station, the final stop on the service from Muscat to Dubai.

“He gave Athira his wallet and asked, ‘Are you OK? Is everything all right?’ before he lost consciousness,” Ms Anil said.

“She said they had taken a family vacation after a long time. She will need her family around her to cope with this.”

You can see the fear in them because of the scenes they witnessed.

Relative of Deepa Kumar

Nahimshad Chonokadavath, the nephew of another Indian victim, said relatives told his aunt in India on Saturday about the death of her husband Ummer Chonokadavath and their son Nabil Ummer.

“My aunt [Ummer’s wife] was told it was an accident at first because it was very difficult to tell her that not just one but both of them have gone,” he said.

Ummer had travelled to Oman with his son to spend Eid with his daughter and her family.

Concerned that Ummer’s wife would need support, the family waited until the rest of her surviving children – two daughters and a son – returned to India on Saturday before telling her about the death of her son and husband in the crash.

Kiran Johnny, an Indian citizen, also died in the accident on Thursday.
Kiran Johnny, an Indian citizen, also died in the accident on Thursday.

“My uncle had retired and gone back to India some years ago. He returned two years ago because he wanted to help his son settle down in business,” Mr Chonokadavath said.

The family has close ties to the UAE, with three of Ummer’s brothers having worked in the country for more than three decades.

“It is a very tough time. At first, nobody believed it was true. I was convinced they had returned home and were sleeping when their phones kept ringing and we could not reach them,” he said.

“I kept hoping that it was not them in that bus although we knew they were on their way back from Oman.”

Two Pakistanis, an Irish citizen and a Bangladeshi make up the remaining passengers who died in the crash. Citizens from Germany and the Philippines were among the 31 UAE residents and visitors on the Oman-registered bus who survived the accident.

Indian consular officials said the bodies of eight victims would be repatriated on Saturday after one body was sent home late on Friday. Another passenger would be cremated in Dubai and the remaining bodies will be repatriated by Monday.

“The process of embalming and booking of the tickets is being completed today,” Vipul, the Indian Consul General in Dubai, said on Saturday.

“This is very tragic especially for the family members who were together in the bus and survived. We have met with the families who are distraught.”

Consular officials worked with volunteers throughout the night to complete the documentation needed to issue death certificates and complete embalming procedures required before bodies can be repatriated.

The two Pakistani men were identified as Shafiq, from Dera Ghazi Khan, and Shehzad Khan, from Peshawar. The Pakistan Consulate General said Shafiq was repatriated on Saturday but documents were still being processed for Shehzad.

Another Pakistani citizen, Jamshed Khan, was injured in the accident but has since been discharged from hospital.

The Oman-registered bus was travelling along Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Road, when it crashed into a sign at Al Rashidiya exit at 5.40pm.

Initial investigations revealed that the Omani driver, in his fifties, took a lane that is not designated for buses and crashed into the maximum-height sign protruding over the road.

Police said the impact of the collision on the bus indicated that the driver was exceeding the speed limit of 40kph on that road.

The Oman government-owned bus company issued a statement offering its condolences to the families and announced a temporary suspension of its daily service between Muscat and Dubai, which lasted until Saturday.

Updated: June 9, 2019 08:34 PM


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