Leaping out in split seconds

Cheating death

Leaping out in split seconds

(Clockwise from top left) Omar Farooq, Krishnan, Pardeep and Moin Kutty who survived the Air India plane crash at the Mangalore Airport, lying on beds at a hospital in Mangalore on Saturday. PTI

The speed at which Air India Express flight IX-812 rocketed into the ILS building before plunging into the depths of the valley gave little time for the passengers to react.

They might not even have said their last prayers when they saw the plane snap into two.

And yet in the split second between life and death, Sabrina Nasrin Huq leapt out of the aircraft when it plummeted and hit the earth ripping through thick vegetation. Stunned and dazed, Sabrina could see a small opening and instinctively made for it — the “great escape” as she calls it.

Sabrina, a 23-year-old medical student on internship at KMC Manipal, is a Bangladeshi settled in Dubai where she was vacationing.  “I was fast asleep and was awakened by the announcement that the flight was about to land. Suddenly, the aircraft jerked violently and I could feel it was plunging,” Sabrina said, her eyes giving away the horror of the seconds when everything spun around her.

“I don’t recollect what was happening in the flight. All that I do remember is seeing that opening through which I squeezed myself out and walked a distance of about a kilometre when I saw some farmers watching in horror the wreckage behind me,” Sabrina told Deccan Herald, lying on her back at A J Hospital where seven others who survived the crash are also undergoing treatment.

Within minutes, the aircraft blew up, the explosion ripping through metal and the flames reducing to ashes everything in its path — humans and the soft seat covers and the aircraft’s interior.  It was at that moment that Sabrina passed out. She believes the farmers made arrangements for her to be shifted to hospital.

Unknown to Sabrina, a few others like Ummer Farook Mohammad also found their great escapes through small slits in the fuselage of the aircraft as it cut through trees and crashed into the valley.

“I saw that slit through which I could see a sliver of the sky. With a prayer on my lips and without giving a second thought or caring about what lay beyond, I jumped out,” Farook said, blessing the Almighty for being alive.

Farook, who was returning to Mangalore to set right some problem with his visa for the United Arab Emirates where he has been working for the past four years, has survived the tragedy with injuries to his limbs and will undergo treatment at A J Hospital before he is discharged.

When flight IX-812 rose into the dark skies of Dubai, Krishnan Koolikkunnu looked forward to a smooth flight and a buoyant day in Kannur, Kerala, where he was returning for a three-month vacation.

But for the hole in the aircraft’s fuselage, through which he leapt to survive and tell his story of how he “beat death”, Krishnan’s fate could have been disastrous as that of the 158 others who lost their lives.

“It’s by God’s grace that I am alive,” Krishnan said as he nursed his fractured arm at SCS Hospital. “The flight attendant announced that we were about to touch down. The very next second, we felt that the aircraft had hit something. Some of the windows burst open and air rushed in. There was fire at the bow end of the aircraft. I was seized with fear and then I saw we were in the midst of a forest,” Krishnan recalled.

He climbed through an opening and had trudged a bit where there was a massive blast. “I hit the ground and rolled over with my hands covering my head, but stood up and then ran for about half kilometre and reached a railway track where the local people offered help and put me on a vehicle that brought me to hospital,” Krishnan said even as he received a string of phonecalls from relatives enquiring about his whereabouts.

Mayan Kutty K P, another survivor admitted to SCS Hospital, is so dazed by the “speed with which everything happened” that he can’t believe he is alive because he “saw death” all around him.

Likewise, for Pradip J Kotian, who was returning home for his brother’s wedding that is to take place on May 27, the accident and the horror of watching others burn to death has “rekindled faith in God”.

Another survivor, Joel Pratap D’Souza (24), has a minor injury on his leg and is admitted at KMC, Ambedkar Circle. Joel said he walked from the crash site to the airport. Puttur Ismail Abdulla is admitted to KSHEMA in Deralakatte while Fathima Mehzan Shafqat is in Unity Hospital in the city. Mohammed Usman, another survivor, is also being treated for injuries in a city hospital

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