After teetering between life and death for nearly eight years, 12-year-old Irfan, the lone survivor of the deadly 2011 Karikkakom bus accident that killed six children and one adult, has died. Though Irfan suffered grievous injuries as a result of the accident, hope and optimism swirled around the boy from across the state as many hoped he would recover from the tragedy.
But on Monday around 7 am, Irfan's health took a turn for the worse, and his parents rushed him to the KIMS hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. "It would happen frequently after the accident, and every time we will take him to hospital," Irfan's father Shajahan told TNM. But this time, the child could not be saved, and he passed away around 9 am.
On February 17, 2011, a school van carrying multiple children to their kindergarten in Pettah fell into the Parvathy Puthanar, a manmade canal near Karikkakom in Thiruvananthapuram. Though local people dived into the canal to attempt to rescue the trapped children and their babysitter, the presence of water weeds hampered the mission, according to reports.
Six children and one adult died in the accident, while only 5-year-old Irfan survived. With oxygen to his brain cut off, Irfan suffered severe brain damage and other injuries. He was in a coma for almost a month and placed on a ventilator.
Over the last nearly eight years, Irfan has undergone various forms of treatment, including acupressure, physiotherapy and music therapy. There were small but hopeful signs that he would recover, like responding to touch by moving his eyes. He was bed-ridden throughout, though his parents had hoped that he would start walking some day.
Irfan's parents, Shajahan and his wife Sajini, had been trying to conceive a child for eight years before they finally had Irfan. After the tragic accident almost snatched their only son away, they dedicated their lives to caring for him, though after the accident, "He never recognised anyone," said Shajahan.
In 2014, Oommen Chandy's family, local businessmen, and construction company helped fund and build a new house for Irfan in Jawaharnagar near Karikkakom. From school students and locals to celebrities and ministers, Irfan had a stream of well-wishers visiting him and showering him with toys, and offering a constant source of moral support to his family. Mariamma Oommen, the wife of former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, had even said the optimism that Irfan's parents showed had moved her.
The previous United Democratic Front government led by Oommen Chandy also gave a government job to Shajahan.