One year on, Newport's Saudi horror crash family still want answers
Updated 9:57am Monday 24th March 2014 in Gwent news
A year on from the horror crash in Saudi Arabia which killed five members of a Newport family, those left behind are still looking for answers. DAVID DEANS reports.
WATCHING him noisily run around his family’s front room, Mohammed Eisa Danial Hayat seems like any other three year old.
But in February 2013 he lost his mother, father, grand-mother, grand-father, and his aunt, in a horrific car crash where he was the only survivor.
One year on, Little Eisa's surviving family have told the Argus of how the youngster has suffered with the tragedy.
The family, who are haunted by the lack of information surrounding the crash, also revealed that the car itself remains at the side of the Saudi Arabian highway where the accident took place.
They are due to return to the country this summer to try to get more answers about what took place.
Shaukat Ali Hayat, 56, his wife Abida, 54, eldest son Mohammed Isshaq, 33, daughter Saira Zenub and Mohammed’s pregnant wife Bilques were killed when the taxi they were travelling in left a motorway and hit a concrete pillar in the early hours of a February morning.
The family, from Pill, had been in the country to perform the Hajj pilgrimage and were travelling from Mecca to Medina when they died.
It was only after toddler Eisa was put in a body bag that it was discovered he had survived the crash, which took place just 20 minutes away from their destination.
The crash also left Omar Hayat, now aged 23, and his sisters Nisa, 27, and Farah, 20, without their mum and dad, their sister and their brother.
In the aftermath of the crash Omar, who with Farah had stayed at home while the others had gone for the Hajj, became a parental figure for Eisa.
Omar said: “During those initial stages it was quite tough. He had lost his entire family.
“He’s always had an attachment with me every since my mum and dad were alive, it was easy for him to cling on to someone he knew very well.
“He was needy more than anything. I had to do everything for him. He wouldn’t want to sleep, he wouldn’t want to eat. He would wake up screaming for his mum.
“We had to put our grief the side in order for us to look after him, and to be a cushion every time he fell. We had to make sure he came first.”
Shaukat’s brother Mohammed Hayat, 57, said Eisa, who has started nursery school at Tiny Tots in Pill, can be “in a world of his own at times”.
“For the first six or seven months he has been having nightmares. He was pining for his mother when it came to bed and feeding time,” he said.
It is believed that the Saudi taxi driver, himself an ex-policeman, had fallen asleep while driving.
Mohammed said the man may have been exhausted after working too many hours at the wheel of his car, which can still be seen on the side of the highway where the family died.
“Vehicles like this should be immediately taken away, rather than left there as a monument of destruction," he said.
Omar said he last visited Saudi with his family in February on the anniversary of the incident.
He couldn’t bring himself to visit the site of the crash, but said other family members saw the car in the Spring of 2013.
“You could see it across the road from the opposite side. It looked like they had moved it, from what I heard.
“I just don’t understand why they chose to leave it there,” said Omar.
The family says the Saudi Arabia investigation into what happened was a much less detailed than might have been the case in Britain.
That is despite calls on Prime Minister David Cameron to ask Saudi King Abdullah for a full probe.
Mohammed said: “The family will always think – what really happened? Who died first? Who died last? Who could have lived? Did the authorities do enough?”
“That’s the only thing that will always haunt us.”
Omar said: “It’s just not knowing exactly what happened and not having a definitive answer.
“I think there’s a lot more that could be done – their resources are slightly limited compared to ours in the UK, but we’re still not at that stage where we’ve actually had an adequate response.”
About eight months ago the Hayat family met Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the King’s nephew and the country’s ambassador to the UK.
He met Eisa and was given a copy of the Argus. Mohammed Hayat said the ambassador told him “whatever I can do for you, I’m there to help you.”
“We stated to him that this highway is very dangerous. Every day there’s an accident. Every day people are dying,” said Mohammed, saying the ambassador was told his government owes pilgrims a “duty of care”.
“He said he would listen to our concerns and that our point was valid – everything will be done and is being done to protect the people who visit Saudi Arabia.”
They have been told that speed cameras and check points are being put in on the road, where it is believed around two to three people die every day, while the authorities will also look at the mileage taxis are doing.
Mohammed said the road safety law needs to be much stronger in Saudi Arabia “because more people are killed by vehicles there than any other form or shape of death”.
He added that If more lives are saved “as a result of the lives lost by our family, that is more important to us than any monetary value.”
Mohammed said the Saudi authorities bear the responsibility for compensating the children.
But the family do feel in indebted to the Saudi government for allowing them to bury their relatives in Medina’s Jannat-ul-Baqi graveyard, near the mosque where the Prophet Mohammad is buried. Omar said that the country was “like our home now”.
After the Argus broke the news of the tragedy last year the Hayat’s story reached newspapers and websites around the world – and around 50 different people from all sorts of different backgrounds offered to adopt Eisa.
Those requests were declined – with Ibrahim Hayat, Pill councillor and brother of Shaukat, acting as little Eisa's guardian.
It is hoped that Eisa will never remember the horror of the crash in Saudi Arabia – but Omar said it is something the family will carry with them forever: “You have your days when you are alone and you have all these thoughts coming into your head.
“It comes into your head the first thing in the morning and it’s the last thing you think about when you sleep.”
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