Crash survivor still haunted by memories of brush with death

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 September, 2003, 12:00am

A survivor of the crash has been forced to quit his job and keep secret from his two young children the inner torment he still endures four years on.

The father of two, who did not want to be named, is still being haunted by flashbacks and nightmares of the freak accident.

He told the Sunday Morning Post that he did not feel the full psychological impact of the crash until a few months afterwards when he realised he had been left with emotional scars that may never fade. He continues to have nightmares and during the day he is haunted by images of the crash.

Survivors have recalled how a deathly silence descended on the cabin as they waited for the plane to explode after it crashed and left them surrounded by flames, dangling upside down in their seats, held in by their safety belts.

A woman passenger engulfed in flames lay unconscious on the cabin floor as the other 300 passengers and crew scrambled to find unjammed exits in the smoke-filled cabin strewn with baggage, chairs and air-conditioning equipment that had become dislodged when the plane overturned.

The survivor, who is in his 40s, said the scenes from the crash remained so vivid in his nightmares that a year ago he decided to follow his doctor's advice to quit his job and rest at home. 'I'm still on medication. Some experts said I may need to rely on medication for the rest of my life,' he said.

He said only his wife knew his secret as he did not want to tell his two teenage children the true reasons why he was not going to work.

While he found the support from his wife a source of encouragement, he said his road to recovery was lonely as few could really understand the depth of his pain.

'It's very, very painful,' he admitted, adding that he had been trying to force himself not to think, recall or talk about anything related to the accident over the past few years.

But he admitted this was difficult, unless he could be isolated from the rest of the world for the rest of his life.

He said the progress of his recovery hinged partly on what was happening in the world because incidents totally unrelated to the China Airlines plane crash could remind him of his pain.

He said the memories flooded back when he heard about the terror attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, and the fatal plunge of a double-decker bus from Tuen Mun Road in July.

Asked if he was confident that he would eventually recover, he said: 'I hope I can overcome it. I'm in transition. I'm trying my best.'