When construction worker Ahmad Fahri heard a loud roar and noticed a plane flying lower than usual, he hesitated for a second and then decided to run - but it was too late.
The last thing he remembers clearly seeing now is the tip of an aircraft's left wing coming at him fast and knocking him down as he tried to leave the dome-shaped roof of a three-storey shophouse, where he and a colleague were doing painting work. The 34-year-old father of two young children survived the incident with physical trauma - internal bleeding in the chest, a dislocated ankle joint and severe bruises on his back and face.
His colleague Rizal, who was on the roof with him, was not so lucky and lost his life.
"I was flung away as the plane hit, then I felt like I was being flipped over several times, and got hit by stones or whatever materials there were, before I realised I was being assisted by two persons on the ground," recounted Mr Ahmad. He was speaking to The Straits Times and a few local reporters from his bed at the Adam Malik hospital yesterday morning.
He said when he saw the plane, he had paused momentarily, knowing the area is near the airport and it is common to see passing airplanes. But they were never as low as the one that fateful day.
Head nurse Sri Aryani said the bruises on Mr Ahmad were caused by hard blows sustained during his fall, while the severely strained ankle joint was due to his hard landing on the ground. If Mr Ahmad had not been flung away from the building, he would have suffered from burns like many of the other victims, his older brother Jasarudin said.
A military Hercules C-130 aircraft had crashed into some buildings about two minutes after take-off in the North Sumatran city of Medan on Tuesday, killing more than 100 people on board and several on the ground.
The full-tank plane slammed into a few shophouses and a massage parlour, before exploding in a fireball. Cars close by were reduced to flaming wrecks and many of the victims' bodies were burnt beyond recognition. The building that Mr Ahmad and Mr Rizal were working on, as well as a few others, was reduced to rubble.
Another colleague of Mr Ahmad's, Mr Rahmat Ahmad, 28, who was painting the roof of a shophouse next to Mr Ahmad's, managed to get away with only minor burns and needed only outpatient treatment, thanks to his quick response.
He had managed to reach the rooftop access door in the nick of time, sustaining burns from the extreme heat that came from the explosion as he ran down the stairs.
"When I hit the ground, someone pulled me to safety. When I looked back, the shophouse I had run away from had been flattened," Mr Rahmat told news website Kompas.com.
This article was first published on July 4, 2015.
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