A Sri Lankan Airlines flight attendant was killed and three of her colleagues injured while on desert safari in Qatar on Friday evening.
A statement issued by the airline through the official Sri Lankan news agency news.lk named Ammendra De Kauwe as the victim in the incident, while three other cabin crew staff were taken to hospital for treatment and were said to be in a stable condition.
De Kauwe’s body is expected to be flown back to her family home in Seeduwa on the island’s west coast on Monday, according to The Sunday Times Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan Airlines’ official statement does not give any details of what happened, but adds: “As the employer we have convened an inquiry in to the incident and await its report.”
However, the Sunday Times reports that the vehicle the group were travelling in “turned turtle” during a desert safari.
An employee of one of the popular tour organizers in Qatar told Doha News that he understood the group had been using their own, private vehicle and driver, and had not booked the trip through one of the country’s established travel companies.
The incident comes as Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) is considering introducing new rules which would raise safety standards for desert safaris.
“Dune bashing” in 4×4 vehicles is a popular activity throughout the region, particularly on weekends.
Once dubbed “the graveyard of young men” by one Australian expat, the country’s vast expanse of sand dunes offer visitors an intense adrenaline rush, but the rapid ascents and descents carry significant risks with “accidents and near-misses commonly reported,” according to QTA.
Any regulation of individual tours would be near-impossible to enforce without the support of other agencies including the Ministry of Interior (MoI).
However last year the QTA said it was planning new requirements for 4×4 vehicles, which appear to include them needing to have safety features such as roll bars, first aid kits, radio equipment and rigid “bull bars” attached to the front of the vehicle to protect its occupants.
At the time, QTA documents said “current (desert safari) options do not follow regulated safety standards.” However several tour operators said they were prevented from upgrading their vehicles due to Traffic Department licensing requirements, and that they welcomed the proposed new rules.
Walid Al Jaouni, the CEO of Qatar International Adventures, previously told Doha News: “If we are told, ‘No vehicles (in the desert) without safety bars,’ I would be happy. I know how important these things are. It will improve our business if we can (improve) safety … We would welcome these ideas.”
In addition to the new rules for the vehicles, the regulations would also require desert safari drivers to meet minimum requirements, including an advanced overland drivers certification by a recognized instruction institute, and a roll-over and simulation driver testing from a recognized institute.
Improve the distribution of licencing on the road first.
Also if the rules of the road aren’t being enforced, why would the desert be any different.
For a business offering tours i would welcome these proposals. For the private individual and/or enthusiast i would not.
A sand dune isn’t a road, there are no rules to be enforced. Driver beware.
How about the government figures out a way to police the laws that already exist :-/
“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” -Plato
BTW Road rules/laws do not apply on sand dunes in Qatar. They are not deemed roadways or maintained by Ashghal etc. Any deaths do not count towards the national road figures either.
Regulating all vehicles entering the desert would be pretty difficult to police, however, it would be a great start to impose stricter safety standards and driver qualifications on businesses who are offering desert tours for profit. A licensing system for drivers, vehicles and tour companies which can be revoked for non-compliance is more realistic to police through spot checks.
Laws and regulations will not stop these things from happening. Half the population drive vehicles that are perfectly capable of traversing the desert safely. Sadly, driving the desert at high speed is not a skill you can just “pick up”. It takes experience… ONLY. it can’t really be taught. There are some techniques that can be taught, but it’s like learning an instrument…. You only get the hang of it after practice. The answer is to know your limitations, and those of your vehicle.
I have driven the desert for many years and it still surprises me. I am more likely to stop at the top of a dune, and examine the other side on foot than go barrelling over the top, especially here where there are so many other vehicles out there, because stopping In a hurry on sand… Just isn’t going to work.
I’ve drive right across Algeria, and Libya, and most of Qatar, and been doing it since I was in my teens – I am now 55 – and even now, I wouldn’t attempt some of the stunts some guys do.
My thoughts are with the family of the deceased, and the injured.
Please, if you drive in the desert, be extra, extra careful. It is just as exhilarating at safe speeds as it is at highway speeds, and trust me, high speed desert driving is only fun for the driver. All the passengers get is terrified…. And cuts and bruised from being bashed about in the back.
Dune bashing – the driver of the vehicle has to be a trained driver in dune bashing or the like – just because you know to drive does not mean you can do this….I have dune bashed myself, it is a frightening experience and I would not do it again as had I known what it entailed before I got into the vehicle I would not have ventured. The risk is great even with an experienced driver
My point, exactly, Cheryl. It is only fun for the driver. As for training… Sure there are techniques that can be taught… Getting yourself un-stuck…. Traversing down a steep incline… But all in all, it takes years of experience to be able to do it safely. But also its about expectation…. Many of the drivers for hire are focused on the passengers expectation of a thrilling ride…. Kinda like a roller coaster without the safety measures…. When in reality, what the desert has to offer is the majesty of a desolate land that many of us would never get to see… And you won’t see it getting thrown around the back of an LC at 100 kph. I hope you try it again, Cheryl…. At a more sedate pace. You will not be disappointed.
I’m not sure I follow.. Was the accident in a private vechile or was it in a tour operated car ??
Sound like some dude decided to take air hostess out and tried a bit to hard to impress and give them a scare resulting in an accident and one of the ladies death…
Most locals do these crazy stunts fully realizing the risks involved … Expats do it .. for the first time.. Not fully understanding the risks involved … The risk is real and no matter who good the driver claims he is.. Most accident happen due to collisions caused by other stupid drivers… Believe the rush you get is not worth the risk… It’s as stupid as deciding to cross e ring on foot mid rush hour… Accident waiting to happen
Mate, the air hostess was with her boyfriend Hillary and they were planning to get married next August. They went there just for a change, specially for one of the injured crew member who have lost her husband who was a pilot in Sri Lanka air force, in last December in an air crash. See, the real picture is far different from what you could imagine ( “Sounds like some dude decided to take the air hostess out” ). And i sincerely hope the authorities in the GCC countries like Qatar and UAE would take necessary actions to prevent incidents like this. may her soul rest in peace.
tried one of these before and must say it freaked me out. Dunes bashing isn’t a cool activity to be honest
It’s just not for you
this is not news..moving along
Every loss of life is significant and worthy of being reported on the news.
every loss is significant, but not every loss is news….this in my opinion is one of them.
There is always one a-hole in the crowd. Congratulations sir. You are today’s winner.
Tell that to her parents. Hope that one day it won’t be you, or someone you care for, before you take time to write such comments again.
Is there something stopping a tour company to emerge from the crowd and install these things to their cars and drivers?
It’s illegal to have a roll cage.
Technically, but there are also legal exceptions to getting one, it wouldn’t be impossible
All great ideas about laws and regulations, but folks we all know that the muppets they call police here wont do a damn thing to enforce laws…
are you serious?
Its funny how only the flight attendants profession is stated and everyone else’s privacy is respected. Expected better from Doha news.
they were all flight crew
It’s always the victim’s fault in Qatar!! Never ever they admit to any wrong doing. Policy makers are flawless so are in this case – tour operators. How pathetic!
Walid Al Jaouni, the CEO of Qatar International Adventures, previously told Doha News: “If we are told, ‘No vehicles (in the desert) without safety bars,’ I would be happy. I know how important these things are. It will improve our business if we can (improve) safety … We would welcome these ideas.
-Then why don’t you go ahead and do it? You don’t need anyone to tell you that safety comes first.