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Family waits for co-pilot’s body

A month after a plane crashed in Lagos killing the 153 people on board, co-pilot Mahendra Singh Rathore’s family in Calcutta is still waiting for his body.

The body has not arrived yet because the Nigerian authorities have sent DNA samples of the passengers and crew who were on the plane to the UK for tests to identify the bodies. There is no facility to carry out the tests in Nigeria.

Mahendra’s father Ishwar Singh Rathore told Metro that his son’s body was unlikely to reach them before tests and identification are completed in “four-five weeks”.

“Over the past month, I wrote several emails to the airline authorities, the Nigerian embassy and the ministry of external affairs, requesting them to expedite the process. We also sent blood samples of my younger son to Nigeria for tests. I spoke to Rani Malik, the Indian ambassador in Nigeria, requesting help. But there is nothing they can do since the bodies cannot be identified without DNA tests and Nigeria lacks labs to conduct them. We can do nothing except wait and hope,” said Ishwar.

Mahendra, who worked for Dana Airways, had said that he wanted to celebrate his birthday, on July 19, with his entire family at their ancestral place in Bikaner. In a cruel twist of fate, the family gathered there a few days after Mahendra expressed this wish to perform his last rites.

But since uncertainty persisted over the arrival of the body, the family returned to their home in Calcutta’s Lake Gardens.

Ishwar, who has been living in the city for 40 years, rejoined work at Bengal Hammer Industries Pvt Ltd. His wife, who suffers from diabetes, has not been doing well since hearing about their son’s death.

“Her blood sugar has shot up to 560 and blood pressure is fluctuating. She has to be looked after all the time. So we brought her to Calcutta from Bikaner. But Mahendra’s wife Isha and seven-year-old son are there,” said Ishwar.

Isha too is struggling to overcome depression. “We thought she would be better in Bikaner. In Calcutta, everything will remind her of Mahendra. My grandson Gaurav is too young to comprehend what is going on but can figure out that something is wrong and his father might not come back.”

But the tears have not broken the Rathores’ resolve. Ishwar’s younger son Rajendra continues to work as a flying crew for an airline with full support from the family.

Ishwar said: “It is all destined. Anything can happen any time. We will never ask Rajendra to quit. We all live in hope.”

Fatal fall: A 50-year-old man died after he fell into a well at Jagadishpur in Howrah’s Domjur on Sunday night. Police said Moloy Roy was drawing water when he slipped and fell into the 45ft-deep well. Neighbours and police pulled him out but he died at hospital.