By Tolu Orekoya
The heartbreaking personal stories of those who died in the tragic Dana Air plane crash have dominated the news since the devastating crash on June 3 which killed over 150 people in what is listed as Nigeria’s second worst air crash, by number of deaths.
The ill-fated plane’s pilot, co-pilot, and flight engineer’s stories are also being told in their countries.
The pilot, Peter Waxtan was an American with decades of flight experience who was new to Nigeria, while the co-pilot, Mahendra Singh Rathore, and Indian was also a husband and a father. Flight engineer Widyo Utomo’s Indonesian parents are merely asking for their son’s body back.
Excerpts From the India Express story:
The green doors of the first floor flat at 64 Lake Gardens in South Kolkata have been locked since Monday. The elderly residents, Inder Singh and Pushpa Rathore, left for their native Bikaner that morning after hearing that their son had been in a plane crash.
Mahendra Singh Rathore was the Indian co-pilot of the Dana Airlines Boeing that went down in Lagos, Nigeria, on Sunday night[…]
“I got a call on Sunday night informing me that the plane my son was flying had crashed. The next day it was out in all the newspapers and on TV channels,” Inder Singh said over the phone from Bikaner.
Mahendra’s wife Esha, a schoolteacher, and their son Surya Pratap, a student of class 1, who were in Delhi, have also gone to the family’s ancestral home in Bikaner.
“I heard Pushpa crying yesterday morning and went over,” the Rathores’ landlady Alpana Sen said. “I attempted to console her by asking her to pray to Lord Jagannath. They had returned from Puri and Bhubaneswar only the day before.”
Sen said the Rathores had been her tenants for four years. Inder Singh is general manager at an iron ore firm that has offices in Camac Street. “Mahendra was called Tinku at home. He was a very soft-spoken and jovial young man who, like his parents and brother, spoke flawless Bengali,” Sen said.
The pilot of the doomed aircraft, 55-year-old Peter Wextan, was due for leave on the Wednesday after the crash, shared a former colleague. The pilot was from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was probably headed home to see his girlfriend, Lisa. He was described as a “good guy” by a former air hostess colleague, and had only been working for Dana for three months -he joined Dana in March.
From the Sun Sentinel:
Pat Squires, a pilot who worked with Waxtan for 15 years, described his friend as a “consummate professional” at flying. “He was the best MD-80 captain I’ve ever seen,” said Squires, formerly of Broward County and now of Phoenix.
Squires said crash photos showing Flight 992 on the ground with it nose up indicates Waxtan was trying to keep it in the air right until the end.
“He did everything he could to save that aircraft,” Squires said. “In the end, if he knew it was going down, he did everything he could to minimize the amount of damage on the ground.”
“If nothing else, his efforts were heroic.”
38-year-old Widyo Utomo was the flight engineer, and had worked at Dana for only a year of a two-year contract before he was killed. His family is asking for their son’s body to be brought home, after being identified.
From the Jakarta Globe:
Widyo’s mother said she could not stop worrying since the Sukhoi Superjet 100 crashed into Mount Salak in Bogor, on May 9, 2012.
“After the Sukhoi accident, I always felt unease,” Nanik Sukarni said as quoted by detik.com. “I kept on praying that such a tragedy, like Sukhoi, would not happen to my son.”
When Widyo was about to leave, Nanik said she held him tight, something she did not normally do. Wardjijanto, who never accompanied his son to the airport, joined Widyo on the Damri bus from Bogor to Soekarno Hatta airport.