BENGALURU: A 40-year-old wheelchair-bound Richpal, who had gone missing for a week after he was denied entry at the Kempegowda International Airport, was finally traced on Tuesday to a roadside hotel in Kannamangala Village, 10 km from the airport. The Bengaluru International Airport Ltd, which manages KIA, issued a statement saying that Richpal was denied entry as he was drunk.
A police officer told Deccan Chronicle however "After we found him, he told us that he was not drunk when he went to the airport. He was only confused and scared when security personnel at the airport confronted him. He struggled to answer their queries and did not have the medical certificate for his injury in the leg, which complicated matters."
A senior police officer told Deccan Chroncile that Richpal, who hails from Bhojpura village in Rajasthan, was heading to Jaipur on July 10. The labourer, who was working at a tiles factory in Chittoor, suffered a fracture in his ankle and was advised complete bed rest. As he couldn’t work, Richpal decided to go to his hometown. Mukesh Kumar, a fellow worker and a friend, helped Richpal book an Indigo flight to Jaipur and dropped him at the departure gate of KIA around 9.20 am.
After entering the terminal, Richpal confirmed to Mukesh that he was inside and Mukesh left for Chittoor. Before leaving the airport, Mukesh called up Richpal’s family and told them that he would reach Jaipur the same day. Panic started when Richpal didn't reach Jaipur and his family frantically called Mukesh to trace him. Mukesh traveled to Bengaluru from Chittoor and filed a missing complaint with the KIA police on July 14.
The KIA police, who began the investigation, found that Richpal was stopped by the Airport security personnel who asked him to produce medical certificates for the injuries. When a scared and confused Richpal could not give satisfactory answers, the security men threw him out, not allowing him to board the flight, citing security reasons. A senior police officer told Deccan Chronicle that Richpal had to leave the wheelchair behind and walk out of the airport. With no place to go, Richpal spent the entire day on the roadside behind a star hotel on the airport premises.
On July 11, an airport towing vehicle staffer found Richpal lying on the roadside. Richpal requested him for a drop till the main road, from where a cab driver dropped him till Kannamangala. Meanwhile, Mukesh, who went around searching for Richpal, could not find him and filed a missing complaint with the KIA police. When the police inquired with the airport staff, they found out that Richpal was dropped off at the main road. The police intensified patrolling, made inquiries with cab drivers and finally traced him at Kannamangala, lying on the roadside, the police officer said.
He said, "When we found him, Richpal was in a lot of pain and looked exhausted. He was left with only `300. Richpal told us that he was not drunk when he went to the airport. We suspect that there was some communication gap and Richpal was sent back" Mukesh, who reached the city on Tuesday evening, said, "Richpal looks okay, but is in a lot of pain. I have informed the family about his well-being and I will fly with him to Jaipur on Wednesday morning."
A BIAL spokesperson said that they took strict cognisance of all security requirements to ensure passenger safety. The statement released by BIAL read, "A passenger travelling from Bengaluru to Jaipur on July 10, 2018 was denied boarding at the departure gate by the airline due to his intoxication and conduct. This was in accordance with National and International aviation safety protocols. Airline staff ensured that the gentleman exited the terminal building safely after completing the airline and security requirements.
The gentleman, subsequently, went missing and the family lodged a complaint with the police. An extensive search was carried out by teams from the police, assisted by BIAL security staff, in the vicinity of the Airport. The gentleman was located at 2.30 am on July 17, 2018, at Kannamangala village – approximately 10 km from the BLR Airport. He was brought back to the airport, offered food, his relatives informed and handed over to the safe custody of the police until such time his family arrives."
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