Mumbai, Aug 8 : The family and relatives of Captain Deepak V. Sathe, the pilot who was killed in Friday evening's Air India Express aircraft crash at Kozhikode International Airport, grieved for their "unbelievable" loss, here on Friday.
"Its hard to believe that Deepak Sathe, my friend more than my cousin, is no more.." said a stunned relative Nilesh Sathe on his social media post.
Nilesh described his cousin as an "experienced aerial operator with 36 years of flying experience", who passed the National Defence Academy, Pune, by topping the 58th Course and was awarded the 'Sword of Honour'.
He later served Indian Air Force for 21 years before joining as a commercial pilot with Air India in 2005.
Nilesh recalled how he spoke with Capt. Sathe last week and he was "jovial as always".
"When I asked him about the 'Vande Bharat Mission', he was proud of bringing back our countrymen from Arab countries," said Nilesh.
When he asked whether Capt. Sathe carried empty aircraft since those countries are not allowing entry of passengers, he replied: "Oh, no. We carry fruits, vegetables, medicines, etc. to these countries and never the aircraft flies empty.. That was my last conversation with him." Nilesh recollected how Capt. Sathe had survived a crash in the early-90s when he was with the IAF, and was hospitalized for six months for multiple skull injuries, "and nobody thought that he will fly again." "But his strong willpower and love for flying made him clear the test again. It was a miracle," he added.
Capt. Sathe is survived by his wife Sushma, two sons -- both IIT Bombay graduates, including elder son Shantanu -- who got married on March 8, a fortnight before the national lockdown started and currently is in the US, while younger son Dhananjay works for a firm in Bengaluru.
The son of Brig. Vasant Sathe, who lives in Nagpur, Capt. Sathe's brother, Capt. Vikas Sathe was an Indian Army officer who sacrificed his life while serving in the Jammu region.
The family lives in the Jalvayu posh Powai suburb of Andheri east and a pall of gloom descended in the area after the tragic news broke out late on Friday of the air tragedy which claimed 18 lives so far.
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-- The story has been published from a wire feed without any modifications to the text