Passengers who survived a fatal bus crash in Dubai are still struggling to cope nearly two years after losing family members they depended on.
Some survivors said they were surprised to hear that the Omani driver, who crashed the bus into a height restriction barrier, killing 17 people, had his jail sentence reduced to one year. Others said they knew the driver did not deliberately cause the accident.
Some of the passengers are still struggling with survivor's guilt and are unable to erase horrifying images from the crash, during which the barrier sliced through the length of the left side of the bus.
More than half of the 31 passengers died on June 6, 2019, while returning to Dubai from Muscat after the Eid Al Fitr holiday.
"I should have also died. Why did I live? It was not good that I survived," said Athira Kumar, who escaped from the wreckage with her young daughter Amulya.
She sobbed as she recalled the day she lost her husband Deepa Kumar, 41, an accountant who was among 12 Indians, two Pakistanis, an Irish woman, an Omani and a Filipina who died in the accident.
"My daughter is five now but she keeps remembering that day," Ms Kumar told The National from Kerala in southern India.
“I do not know what to think about this [the reduced sentence]. My husband was such a good man. He will not come back. Whether one or seven years, what will we do? Nothing changes for us.”
They were returning to Dubai, where Mr Kumar worked for 15 years, after a holiday in Muscat.
“I need a job. I need to provide for my daughter. That is all I can think of,” Ms Kumar said.
Zidan Firoz Pathan was a teenage survivor who lived because he was sitting across the aisle from his parents, Firoz Khan and Reshma Pathan. He saw them both die that day.
Now 21, he is studying at university in Mumbai and lives with his grandparents.
Mr Pathan relies on long conversations with close friends to push past the trauma he experienced that day.
"It does not seem right that 17 people died and the driver got one year," he said.
“Emotionally and financially, I’m not stable. I can barely handle my life without my parents.
“My friends help me cope. Sometimes I don’t have nightmares. I try to remember the last good memories in Oman.”
His father took out a loan to buy a small electronics shop in Mumbai and Mr Pathan is reeling under debt from making monthly mortgage payments. He is also under pressure to pay university fees.
The family was travelling to the UAE on holiday from Oman, where his father worked.
Relatives hope the court case will end so they can leave the tragedy behind them.
Manisha Thakur lost her husband Vikram and cousin Roshni Moolchandani.
She planned to travel with her family for Eid but was held back in Dubai because of work.
"Why do we have to suffer like this? Waiting for nearly two years is a long time when many people lost the only person who worked in their family. Many are finding it difficult to meet their daily needs," she said from Pune, in western India.
Ms Thakur was in the UAE under her husband's sponsorship and has since returned to her parents’ home. She hopes to return to Dubai to rebuild her life.
“The more I think of the court decision, the more confused the mind gets. There is anger obviously, because 17 people died. But I can’t change what happened,” she said.
“The driver made a mistake but why should he suffer more years in jail? He is also his family’s breadwinner.
“We need to close this, start a new chapter and plan for our future.”
Sapna Moolchandani lost her sister Roshni, a hotel employee and aspiring model with more than 50,000 followers on Instagram.
“It should have been a higher sentence but the driver didn’t cause the accident intentionally,” she said.
“It was not deliberate and whatever the punishment, it will not lessen our pain. The sentence is just important to remind people they need to be careful on the roads.”