Surviving tragedies seems to run in the D’Souza family. Joel Pratap D’Souza, the youngest of three children in this Catholic family, was among eight survivors of the May 22 air crash in Mangalore that killed 158 people.
His father Joseph D’Souza was among four survivors from a boat that sank in the Arabian Sea with 14 people on board 26 years ago.
“Life is a mystery which no one can explain except God,” Joseph told UCA News on May 30 sitting with his son in their hut in Vamanjoor, 10 kilometers from Mangalore, Karnataka state.
Joel escaped death by jumping out of a hole in the aircraft that appeared near his seat. “I jumped and three others fell on me,” he recalled. He later spent five days in hospital after fracturing his spine and injuring his right knee.
Joel says his family believes providence saved him.
He said he didn’t think he would see his family again as he prepared to jump from the aircraft. “Yet God wanted me to live on,” he told UCA News on May 29.
Joel said he did not want to alarm his parents so he called his brother-in-law in Dubai, who broke the news to the family about his lucky escape.
His only regret was that he could not keep a promise to a traveling companion to drop him off home. “Unfortunately he died and his mother is inconsolable,” he added.
Joel’s father says God not only opened the aircraft near his son’s seat but also kept Joel’s presence of mind intact at a trying time. He said a Capuchin priest had visited the house the previous evening and prayed for the family.
Joel’s strength of character has impressed Air India’s chairman and managing director, Arvind Jadhav, who has offered him a job.