Corpse at airport: Police say man died before departure

By Damith Wickramasekera

An elderly man found dead at Katunayake International Airport on Thursday night had passed away either just before or after entering the airport premises, according to the police.

BIA’s Chief Inspector Erik Perera said the deceased, Periyana Pillai Sidhambaram (87), had died of natural causes. He said it was not true, as some media reports had claimed, that attempts were being made to smuggle Mr. Sidhambaram’s body into India.

Mr. Sidhambaram, who was a patient and had been paralysed for many months, had been booked on the India-bound UL 115 flight, which was due to leave Colombo at 1.30 am on Friday. He and his son, a businessman dealing in textiles, arrived at the airport around 9.35 pm. Mr. Sidhambaram was travelling to India for treatment.

According to OIC Perera, police findings and medical evidence indicated that the patient had died shortly before or after entering the airport premises.

The patient, who arrived at the airport in a wheelchair, had turned up early at the check-in counter, which was not open at the time. Suspecting something amiss with the passenger, airport security alerted the police, who in turn summoned the airport doctor, who confirmed that the passenger was dead. The police sent the body to the Ragama JMO, Channa Perera, for a post-mortem examination. The JMO confirmed the patient had died of a heart attack around 10 pm.

According to OIC Perera, Mr. Sidhambaram had not followed proper procedure for a passenger who was travelling as a patient. He said that someone in Mr. Sidhambaram’s poor state of health should have been under medical supervision and brought to the airport in an ambulance and on a stretcher. Such passengers should also be booked to travel in a sleeping position, not an upright one. A sleeping position on a plane is more expensive because it requires extra facilities and involves three seats, not one, the OIC said.

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