Lest we forget: Three years since Mangalore Air Crash

Special Correspondent
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore

Mangalore, May 22: May 22nd marks the completion of three years of the ghastly tragedy of Air India Express crash at Mangalore International Airport that took away the lives of 158 passengers arriving from Dubai.  The tragedy that occurred in the wee hours is said to be one of the worst aviation disasters in the country when Air India Express Boeing 737-800 with 166 passengers on board overshot the runway and crashed into the nearby valley and burnt like a ball of fire.  Joyous passengers were reduced to charred bodies within a matter of few minutes and only the lucky eight could survive the tragedy to give a firsthand account of the horrible tragedy.

They say public memory is short. But the ghastly scenes of the tragedy, the plane burning like a ball of fire, charred bodies with seat belts on, the wreckage of the plane lying helter-skelter, distraught and sniveling family members and relatives, the frantic search for relatives among the charred bodies and chaos that followed in recognizing the charred bodies, the heart-rending scenes at the site, the mass burial etc., are still fresh in the minds of the people even after three years and the memories cannot be wiped away even with the passage of time. There was total chaos and confusion in identifying the bodies leading to mass burial and there was lot of confusion with regard to the compensation.  The accident completely destroyed a few families and some lost multiple members of their family. 

One can imagine the sufferings, the trauma, mental agony, hardships and the distress undergone by the family members and relatives of those who died in that tragedy. It has to be remembered that no compensation can bring back the much loved family members who perished in the crash and the pain and agony will be known only to those who undergone it.  Others can only sympathize with them. 

As a mark of respect to all the 160 (including two infants) Air India officials this morning went to the site of crash this morning and paid floral tributes to the souls.  Station Manager of Air India Melvyn D Silva who returned from the site of the accident said “We went to the site and prayed our homage to all those who died in the crash. It was a tragic incident and we want to tell the family members that you are not alone in this hour of your grief”.

Though Air India had set up a memorial at the crash site inscribing the names of all those who died in the crash it was vandalized within a few days of its construction by unknown miscreants by hurling huge boulders.  Station Manager Melvyn D Silva pointed out that since the memorial was in private property Air India cannot think of reconstructing another memorial at the site.

Speaking to daijiworld about the compensation paid and other aspects of the accident Melvyn D Silva said “families of 130 people have accepted the full and final settlement of compensation offer by Air India.  30 people have taken compensation as per Kerala High Court order and the final settlement will depend on the outcome of the High Court judgment”.   He also stated that the eight survivors of the tragedy have also been paid compensation and their claims are fully settled. 

It may be recalled here that among the dead majority were from undivided Dakshina Kannada district.  There were also passengers from neighbor Kerala state and from neighbouring districts like Uttara Kannada.  Since it was May, most of the passengers were coming to their native place to attend family functions like marriages, naming ceremony, threading ceremony, housewarming, anniversaries etc., but met a tragic end following the crash.

Apart from the pending case at Kerala High Court,   812 Foundation, a Mangalore-based trust has filed criminal charges for negligence against regulatory authorities and the airlines at JMFC II court in the city.  The petition has sought non-bailable arrest warrants against top officials for causing death by negligence. The private complaint alleged that three government agencies and 12 officials should be held responsible for the Air India Express crash.  President of the Foundation Yeshwant Shenoy had demanded that officials of Air India should be charged under section 302 (punishment for murder) and Section 304A of IPC which deals with causing death by negligence.  The court has taken cognizance of the offence and the case is going on.

With the passage of time public memories may fade but those who lost their loved ones will always feel the tinge of pain and despair for the rest of their lives.  It is a bigger tragedy that for some victims there are no close family members left to grieve.


Mangalore: Case filed in Supreme Court

Daijiworld Media Network – Mangalore (SP)

Mangalore, May 22: A city-based organization, ‘812 Foundation’, has filed criminal petitions in the Supreme Court as well as the second JMFC court in the city, seeking punishment for those who were responsible for the 2010 air crash tragedy.

‘812 Foundation’ is an organization set up by a Mumbai-based advocate, Yashwant Shenoy, city-based lawyer, Nayana Pai, and a member of a family affected by the above tragedy. The organization has secured all the records it needs, by using provisions of Right to Information Act. The organization has enclosed to its petition an investigation report prepared by it, to prove that the death of 158 people is a homicide arising out of the negligence of Airports Authority of India. In the petition, the organization has also held Air India responsible for not subjecting the ill-fated aircraft to mandatory annual checkup as required for its flight capability. In fact, the organization has said, this aircraft was not put through the annual tests for the last four to five years.

The petition filed in the Supreme Court has been admitted, and two hearings have already been conducted. The local court has admitted the petition, but notices are yet to be served on the respondents. The petitioners have argued that the tragedy which had occurred at Kenjar near the airport on May 22, 2010, was not an accident, but murders resulting out of the negligence of the entities concerned. The petition seeks stringent punishment to those responsible for the tragedy.

The main aim of these petitions is to ensure that those who were responsible for this catastrophe are punished, rather than ensuring payment of compensation to the affected persons. The organization has filed private complaints under section 200 of Criminal Procedure Code. A total of ten organizations and individuals including Air India, Airports Authority of India, and Director General of Civil Aviation, have been mentioned as respondents in the case.


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