Anxious Relatives Await Survivors, Criticize Information Delays
Undated (AP) _ As survivors of the Pan Am flight seized by Arab terrorists in Pakistan dispersed around the globe Sunday, relatives in the United States waited impatiently to greet them.
Some families had to endure agonies of suspense before learning the fate of their loved ones in the 17-hour ordeal that ended in gunfire with at least 15 people dead, including three Americans.
Sunday night, a Pan Am airliner carrying 112 survivors of the hijacking attempt arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, where they were reunited with friends and family members.
In Huntington Beach, Calif., the family of an American shot to death by the terrorists learned Sunday evening that the man’s grandmother also was dead.
Relatives of Rajesh Kumar, 29, said they were angry that they were not told for three days that Kumurben Patel, 80, also had been killed. They were also furious that she had been cremated without authorization.
″We are very upset with the way the authorities are handling the case,″ said Di Patel, 29, Kumar’s cousin. ″Somebody is hiding something from us, I don’t know what. They don’t seem to give a damn about us.″
The three were among 400 hostages taken Friday on the Boeing 747 at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan.
The terrorists opened fire with grenades and automatic weapons, and Pakistani officials said at least 15 people were killed, including three Americans, and 127 people were wounded.
Pan American World Airways officials said 44 Americans, most of Indian or Pakistani ancestry, were aboard but that the list was not definitive.
Kumar, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen July 11 and changed his name at that time from Patel to Kumar, had gone to Bombay, India, where the flight originated, to bring his grandmother and aunt to visit his new country.
Kumar was shot in the back of the head and dumped out of the plane in the early hours of Friday’s attempted hijacking after telling hijackers, who had called him to the front of the plane, that he was an American citizen.
Until Sunday evening, when Kumar’s 45-year-old aunt, Gangaben Patel, telephoned the family home in Huntington Beach, there was no information on the whereabouts of the two women, said Di Patel.
″We just got a call from my aunt after she arrived back in Bombay this evening and she said my grandmother had died,″ Patel said. ″We don’t know how she died. My aunt said she saw the body and they cremated it.″
Di Patel confirmed Sunday evening with the State Department that the elderly woman had died.
He said Kumar’s body was in a hospital in Frankfurt, West Germany, and that it was expected back in the United States sometime Tuesday. The family plans to bury Kumar in Southern California.
In Newark, N.J., Dharmesh Patel said he only learned Sunday that his younger brother, Mrugesh, had survived the shooting and was hospitalized in Bombay, India, with a leg injury.
The younger Patel, who was returning to the United States for his senior year of high school, had spent the summer with his parents in India. Dharmesh said calls to Pan Am and the State Department yielded no information on Mrugesh’s whereabouts, but his parents learned where their son was and called Newark.
″It’s hard for me to wait,″ said Asha Reddy, mother of 12-year-old Siddhartha Reddy, in Sugar Land, Texas. ″I slept a few hours last night, and I feel really sick and tired.″
Ms. Reddy said she had booked a flight to New York to meet her son, but that he might be flown to Houston. ″Tell (my mother) I love her and I’m coming home soon,″ the youth said in a telephone interview Saturday night from Karachi.
Dave Allison, 37, was among those passengers who fled from the plane’s escape hatch Friday after the terrorists opened fire and Pakistani commandos stormed the plane.
″He jumped from the wing to the ground and when he landed he twisted his ankle,″ said his fiancee, Charlotte Moore, in Houston. ″Then he couldn’t stand up, so he had to roll from under the plane.″
She said, ″He told me not to worry if I saw pictures of him on TV with blood on him - that he had not been hit, but that it was a real mess.″
She said she would fly to West Germany join Allison, who was flown to the U.S. Rhein Main Air Base in Wiesbaden.
Deev Bhandari of Houston, said he planned to fly to New York to meet his brother, Dr. Y.S. Bhandari, a New Jersey neurosurgeon who sprained his back fleeing the plane after the shootout.
In Raleigh, N.C., relatives of Parshotam L. Kampani agonized for more than 30 hours without news, and were relieved to learn that he had survived - although shot in the shoulder and breaking both legs in fleeing the jetliner.
″We still feel bad enough that he’s been through what he has, but we are so relieved that it is not more serious,″ said Kiran Jolly, Kampani’s daughter.
Kampani was to join his wife in Raleigh for a lengthy visit with their daughter and son-in-law, and was recuperating in Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital, where he underwent surgery on both legs.
″My father always prepared for the worst,″ Mrs. Jolly said. ″Whenever he flew, he was always joking that he might be late because his flight would be hijacked or something. We always laughed it off; we never took him seriously.″