A ruined home now Ground Zero for crash probe

May 26th, 2011 - 6:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Faridabad, May 26 (IANS) Just a day earlier, house number 1254/3 in Faridabad’s Parvatiya colony was a bustling home to 10 people. Now it is a blackened ruin, reeking of gasoline, even as scores of strangers crawl around it for clues into a crash. Part of a broken aircraft lies embedded in its walls and another part lies on its collapsed roof.

The fire from the resultant fuel that spilled after the air ambulance crashed into “Sherawat Nivas” Wednesday night, killing 10 people, burned for over an hour in the darkness of the night and consumed the entire two-storey house.

In the harsh light of the day, the house was ground zero, with hundreds thronging the periphery or standing on adjoining terraces in the colony where houses have been built cheek-to-jowl.

The police had tried to make the house off-limits, by barricading the 15 metre wide lane in front of the house. But it was a futile exercise.

At around 10.40 p.m. Wednesday, as a storm brewed over this middle class colony, a small nine-seater plane crashed into the house, wiping out all its women members. The crash killed 10 people, including seven on board.

The intense fire had burned off the original paint of the iron grill door, giving it a mismatched appearance - one half dark maroon and the other rusty-grey iron.

Next to the door, “Sherawat Nivas” was inscribed on a black marble tile.

The ground floor layout, which had included a living room, a dining hall and another room, had virtually burnt down. There was now only a scorched sofa and a collapsed bed - the walls and floors were covered in soot.

The staircase to the upper floor was unusable, while its railings had fallen off and its cement layer torn off by the crash.

The wrecked dark blue body of the small plane was ensconced on the first floor, pushing through a gaping hole on the roof below its belly. The tail was overhanging from the terrace of the adjoining house, which had also suffered some damage.

Immediate neighours said Shobha Ram Sherawat, the owner of the house, was a shattered man.

“The fire from the sky swallowed his entire family. His wife, daughter and daughter-in-law have perished,” said Jagbir Singh, living in the adjoining house.

Singh said Sherawat, who retired from a public sector company, had gone to the mortuary Thursday to claim the bodies and then to cremate them. His son survived.

Singh, whose house is exactly in front of the ruined house, will never forget the night of May 25.

“When the storm came, there was a very loud noise of a plane,” Singh told IANS, as he sat in front of his house and kept an eye on all the going-ons in the adjacent house.

It was fate that saved him and his family too.

He said when they realized that a plane had crashed into the ill-fated house, he along with and his family ducked down and moved outside to the stairs.

According to another neighbour, four Nepali nationals, who were living in the first floor room of the ill-fated house as tenants, had a miraculous escape.

Vicky Singh said that the Nepali national Nishant, known popularly as Babu, lived with his wife and two children.

“His friend Omkar had come to visit them. When they heard the booming noise and the nose of the small plane crashing through, they ran for cover. But the fire by that time had engulfed them. Omkar helped the family out. In the process, his face and his right hand got burned. He jumped from the first floor to the ground,” said Vicky.

Omkar lives a few houses away. Nishant got a few burn injuries.

As hundreds swarmed through the wrecked house, white-gloved officials from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Safety and Directorate General of Civil Aviation minutely examined each and every piece of debris.

In front of the house, parts of the engine were laid out, along with a half-burnt manual. On the engine part, the words - PC-12 - could be made out, a reference to the plane.

Said Jagbir Singh: “I don’t know what will happen to the family. In one stroke everything is over (for them).”

The plane was hired from Delhi-based Air Chartered Services India Pvt Ltd by Delhi’s Apollo Hospital as an air ambulance. It was carrying a 20-year-old student, Rahul Raj, who was critically ill and was being shifted from Patna to Apollo Hospital.

Raj’s cousin Ratnesh, two doctors — Rajesh Jain and Syed Arshad Abbas - and male nurse Cyril P. Joy.

All seven on board the plane perished as did three on the ground.

(Sumit Kumar Singh can be contacted at sumit.s@ians.in)

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