22 May 2012: Two years after the Dubai-Mangalore Air India Express crash that claimed 158 lives, the scars have not been healed. Neither have the compensation claims by many of them been settled to their satisfaction.
Families of some victims filed fresh compensation suits at civil courts in India on Monday, a day before the second anniversary of the crash that took place on May 22, 2010 when flight IX 812 from Dubai overshot the tabletop runway at Mangalore’s Bajpe Airport and caught fire after it plunged into a valley. Only eight passengers survived the crash.
The fresh cases followed reports in the Indian media that the legal counsel for AI has settled 159 of the 160 cases of passengers for Rs115crore (about Dh78 million).
Speaking to Khaleej Times from Mumbai, Air India’s legal counsel Hoshang D Nanavati said all cases except one were settled either on full and final basis or as per judgment of the Kerala High Court.
The only case that has not been settled is that of S Abdul Salam whose petition will be heard at India’s Supreme Court in October. Salam, who lost his son, who was working in the UAE, is challenging the judgement of a division bench of Kerala High Court that allowed AI’s appeal and quashed an order by the single bench holding a minimum of 100000 SDRs (Special Drawing Rights, roughly Dh520,000) to be payable in respect of death of each passenger as per the Montreal Convention. Though Nanavati confirmed that 130 cases were settled on full and final basis, and 29 were settled as per the High Court’s judgment in the case, further details of the disbursement were not immediately made available. “We have calculated the compensation according to what we believe is payable,” he said. “If the passengers’ families choose to dispute that, it is their choice. We will have to defend our stand. If they claim higher compensation, they need to prove that the damages done were more than what we have analysed,” said Nanavati.
Mohammed Beary, president of Mangalore Air Crash Victims’ Families Association, said at least 13 fresh compensation suits were filed at a civil court in Mangalore on Monday. They include one by his brother Dr Mayyabu Beary, a resident of the UAE-Oman border area, whose wife and three relatives perished in the crash.
Dubai residents Santhosh Rai and Abdul Rahman, who lost their wives and children, have also moved the court. “Some other families living in Kerala also filed the civil case today,” said Rahman.
Rai noted that the victims’ relatives had to resort to fresh legal battle since the Montreal Convention stipulates a compensation suit by victims’ families within two years after a plane accident. He said many families could not go for cases as they cannot afford the court fee.
Families struggle to cope with loss
The tragedy that struck them two years ago is still haunting the families Mangalore air crash victims . Some of them are yet to come to terms with their loss.
For Janette Priscilla Fernandes, a nurse at a Dubai hospital, what has been helping her pull her life ahead is the urge to live for her little son, Immanuel.
They lost Immanuel’s father, Denis Saldanha, and elder brother Ashton, who was then five, in the Air India Express crash on May 22, 2010. “It has been very difficult to cope with life without them,” the single parent told Khaleej Times.
Saldanha’s and Ashton’s visit to Mangalore was supposed to be a surprise to the former’s parents who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary the next day. “Immanuel and I were at Mangalore and all our relatives were also there. We were expected to be back after a week. Denis had not planned to come down because Ashton had school,” recollected Fernandes who now lives with an aunt in Dubai.
She said Denis left Dubai without informing anyone except a family with whom they shared their apartment.
“It was only when they called us up after seeing the news that we got to know they were also on that flight. We had their funeral mass instead of the wedding anniversary celebration the next day,” Fernandes said.
“I’m upset that God took him away instead of me ... I’ve a lot of health issues and he was a very healthy man. Now I’m praying for only good health. If I’m in good health I can look after my son at any cost.”
Fernandes said she has not received full compensation from Air India. “My brother-in-law is handling those issues in India. But, you know, no compensation can replace my loss,” she said.
Courtesy: Sajila Saseendran, khaleejtimes.com