Tuesday marked the first anniversary of the horrific crash of US-Bangla Airlines Flight BS211 at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. The aircraft, a Bombardier Dash 8, was carrying 67 passengers – 33 Nepali, 32 Bangladeshi, one Chinese and one Maldivian nationals – and four Bangladeshi crew members. The plane skidded off the runway and crashed onto a football field near the airport on March 12, 2018, killing 52 people including two children and all four crew members. A panel of Bangladeshi and Nepali civil aviation authorities investigated the crash, the report of which was released in January this year. The Nepali officials said the aircraft crashed due to the pilot’s erroneous judgement, while the lone Bangladeshi investigator put the blame on the airport’s air traffic control. Those who survived the incident, and those who lost loved ones, are still haunted by the terror, pain and trauma they suffered a year ago
Every day is a struggle
Emrana Kabir Hashi had flown to Nepal on Flight BS211 with her software engineer husband Md Rokibul Hasan for a holiday. She survived the crash, but Rokibul did not.
For Hashi, who was an assistant professor at Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology prior to the accident, every day is a struggle.
“I am still undergoing treatment under the supervision of US-Bangla Airlines,” she told the Dhaka Tribune.
She was taken to Singapore as soon as she was cleared by doctors in Kathmandu following the crash. She underwent treatment in Singapore for two and a half months, before she was brought back to Dhaka, where she was admitted to hospital again.
“I was in hospitals for nearly 11 months before I took a break to see my family.” She went to her parents’ house in Enayetpur Dakkhinpara area under Tangail municipality on February 8 this year. “I still have a few surgeries left.”
The family is still shaken up by the crash and losing Hashi’s husband.
“I could not recognize my own daughter when I reached Kathmandu on March 15. Her entire body was wrapped in bandages. I recognized her by her photo in the hospital database,” Hashi’s father, Sonali Bank official Humayun Kabir said.
Rokibul died instantly during the crash, but at that time, Hashi did not realize that.
“I woke up in a Singapore hospital nine days after the crash,” she said. “When I asked about my husband, everyone said he was in Kathmandu. I tried so hard to go to him, but no one let me.”
It took a while before she realized her husband was gone.
“I have accepted it. No one has any control over accidents,” Hashi said. “I am trying to cope with my loss. Now I am focused on getting better. The Bangladesh government and the US-Bangla Airlines authorities have provided assistance throughout my treatment.”
Despite her positive outlook, Hashi still gets overcome by her terror-filled experience.
“I used to see flames everywhere when I was in the ICU in Singapore,” she said. “The memories of the accident, the flames – they still haunt me. The mental trauma is much more difficult to overcome.
“But I am trying. It was a miracle that I survived; I did not think I would. Now all I want is to make a full recovery and go back to my work. I will gain my physical and mental health amidst my colleagues and students.”
In pain, in trauma
Eakub Ali Ripon, a cosmetics and beauty products trader, has become a recluse. Living with his wife and eight-year-old daughter in Adabor, Dhaka, he barely speaks with his family members, and completely avoids social interactions with anyone not family.
The eldest among five siblings, Eakub is from Kamarkhara union in Tongibari upazila, Munshiganj.
“My husband used to travel a lot for his business,” his wife Ankhi Bepari told the Dhaka Tribune. “He frequently flew to Malaysia, Singapore and many other countries.”
Rescued alive from the debris of the aircraft, Eakub received treatment at hospitals in Kathmandu, Delhi, and two hospitals in Dhaka in the last one year. “We have received a lot of assistance from the authorities concerned regarding my husband’s treatment.”
However, Eakub has not been able to regain his normal life. Still living in pain, he needs help to move around.
“My brother cannot walk without help,” said his brother Shipu Bepari. “He has yet to get back to work since the crash.”
Ankhi said Eakub’s brothers were currently looking after his business in his absence.
Added to that is trauma of the incident.
Haunted by the memories
Shahreen Ahmed, one of the survivors, still gets jittery on a flight when it lands.
She said she had flown to Nepal alone that fateful day.
“When the pilot did not land after several attempts, I was a bit puzzled. When the plane finally touched ground, it titled to the left. In seconds, the plane smashed into the ground,” recounts Shahreen.
The plane skidded for a bit and then caught fire.
“After smoke filled the inside of the plane, a fellow passenger and I started to scream to let fire-fighters know that we were alive. There was fire on my hair and clothes. I put the fire out and put my head underneath the seat.”
It took about 25 minutes for the rescue workers to find Shahreen and her fellow passenger. By that time, she had sustained severe burn injuries.
“I came back to Dhaka on March 16 and was treated at the burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital for 25 days,” she said.
“The images of the crash are still vivid in my memory. They still haunt me,” she added.
Families of the deceased still grieving
The families of those who died in the crash are still getting used to the fact that their loved ones are no more.
The family members of Sanzida Huque Bipasha, who died along with her husband Md Rafiquz Zaman and their son Aniruddha Zaman in the crash, came to Dhaka from Jessore yesterday to attend a memorial event organized by civil society platform Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan), where Sanzida was a coordinator,at National Press Club.
“We have not arranged any program in her memory in Jessore today [yesterday]. A special prayer will be held in a local madrasa, followed by a feast for the underprivileged, on Friday,” Sanzida’s cousin Fazle Mahmud told the Dhaka Tribune.
Family members of Dr Pias Roy held a special prayer for him at his native home in Barisal.
“The pain of losing a child is something you cannot understand unless you have experienced it,” said his father Sukhendra Bikash Roy. “It would be easier to accept his death if it was natural.”
Chowdhury Akbor Hossain and Saleh Titu of Bangla Tribune contributed to this report