Most of the students dozed off during the flight, and woke each other up when the mountains of Nepal came into view. The plane was descending, and those with window seats started pointing at familiar landmarks. The students had done the flight many times before, but they knew something was wrong when the plane aborted its landing, flew low and then climbed and turned steeply.
Suddenly, there was a big bang, and for Byanjankar it all went dark. When she came to about ten minutes later, she was wet from the water hose of the fire trucks. She tried to wake up her friends, but they were not moving at all. She was pulled out before the fire consumed the crushed cabin, and taken to KMC Hospital in an ambulance.
Before boarding the plane in Dhaka, Charu Baral had exchanged her boarding pass with Byanjankar so she could sit with her cousin Algina. Samira then sat next to Princey Dhami. That seat swap cost Charu her life, and probably saved Samira’s. Princey was grievously wounded and died 20 days later in hospital in Delhi.
Most of the students were from middle class Nepali families who had invested their savings to afford medical education for their children. The Byanjankars had sold a portion of their land. The stories of individual tragedies in the families add up to a national loss. A dozen aspiring doctors were killed, as well as one of Nepal’s top neurosurgeons, Bal Krishna Thapa of the BP Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital in Chitwan.
“I was fated to live, and I want to devote this gift to my family and my patients,” says Samira Byanjankar. “I see my friends often in my dreams, where we are all planning trips together again.”