The pilot had just completed a commercial flight from the United States to Covid-struck India when he received the news his colleague had died of the virus.
“We parked the plane in Delhi, switched off the engines, switched on our phones, and the guy sitting next to me said, ‘Oh my God, so-and-so has passed away,'” said the pilot, who requested anonymity for fear of losing his job.
“I remember just falling to the floor when I heard it … I could not get out of the seat for a few minutes.”
That was the first of five Indian colleagues, all of whom were pilots, who would die in May as the second wave of Covid-19 ravaged the country, he said.
The second wave, which started in mid-March and peaked in May, infected millions and killed tens of thousands across India. The health care system collapsed in some of the worst-affected areas, leaving people to die outside hospitals while waiting for oxygen or an open bed.