April 24, 2015 2:13:51 am
Late Thursday evening, as Labhuben Kanjaria scrambled in the dark to identify her luggage from a state transport bus that will take her safely back to her house in Dhrangadhra, her eyes well up with grief as she speaks of her friend she lost in the ill-fated Char Dham yatra which began on March 22 early this year to end in a tragedy near Kathmandu on Wednesday.
“Both my friends, Jassuben and Champaben, who were employed as cooks on the tour to Nepal, were travelling in the bus and fell to their death in front of my eyes. I am now back without them and though tired and very sad, I am glad to be back alive and going back to my house. I don’t think I want to travel anymore as this memory will haunt me,” she says.
Kanjaria was among the 43 passengers, along with six critically wounded tourists, onboard the Indian Air Force’s special aircraft IL-76 called Gajraj which landed at Ahmedabad airport on Thursday.
The aircraft was carrying aboard the survivors and the bodies of 17 tourists who were killed in a freak bus accident when their sleeper coach fell 200 metres off the road from a mountain highway at Nagdhunga, 16 km from Kathmandu in Nepal, on Wednesday morning. The tourist party of 76 people had taken off on March 22 from Surendranagar in two buses, of which one bus, operated by Shri Hari travels, met with an accident, while the other one, identified as that of Omaiya travels, was safe.
The IAF aircraft took off with the tourists from Kathmandu at 3:30 pm and landed at 5:35 pm at Ahmedabad airport. A two-and-a-half-hour-long operation saw around 10 ambulances shipping out the dead bodies. While six ICUs on wheels took six of the critically injured to the Civil Hospital at Shahibag, two state transport buses were kept as standby to transport the survivors and their luggage to Surendranagar.
Another survivor, Manjulaben Dabhi, spoke of her ordeal, “I’ve managed to reach back by God’s grace, now no more.” On the other hand, Tapubhai Raojibhai Dabhi, who speaks of having fished out dead bodies from the bus, says “I cannot explain how I am feeling, but for a long time now I don’t wish to travel again.”
Relatives of the survivors and the deceased had been queuing up in two buses provided by the district collector, which included a group of 80 odd people.
As Ankit Rangadiya waits to collect the body of his mother-in-law, Jassuben Valjibhai Dabhi, the cook, wells up as he recalls, “Jassuben was like my second mother and was someone whom we looked up to in the family. She last spoke to my little daughter and said that she will bring her toys.”
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