Cape family killed in plane crash

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

and Mark Bliss ~ Southeast Missourian

PARON, Ark. -- Relatives and friends came together bearing photographs Monday in memory of a Cape Girardeau family killed in a plane crash in central Arkansas.

"We have lost them all, we have lost everything," said Shafiq Malik, as he looked through tear-filled eyes at a wall in his home now adorned with photos of his brother, Dr. Mohammad Shakil, his wife, Farida, and the couple's four children.

The Shakils were killed when their single-engine Piper PA-32 went down near Paron, Ark., around 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Their bodies were taken to the state crime laboratory in Little Rock, Ark., where they will be officially identified using dental records, said Saline County Coroner Will Bearden, who expects to release the bodies to their relatives some time today or Wednesday.

Sixteen-year-old Osman and his younger brother, Hassan, 14, attended Central High School. Sabeen, 13, attended St. Mary Cathedral School, and Rabiya, 11, was in the fifth grade at Jefferson Elementary.

In keeping with the family's religious beliefs, relatives hope to bury their loved ones as soon as possible.

"Our biggest concern right now is to get their bodies back here," Malik said.

Family members expect to decide the funeral arrangements sometime today.

Crash site remote

The Shakils spent the weekend in Hot Springs, Ark., attending a documentary and arts film festival.

Dr. Shakil, 53, piloted the six-seater plane as it plunged into woods near Wolf Creek, off Hub Road and Arkansas Route 9, at about 2:30 p.m.

The heavily wooded area in the Ouachita National Forest is so remote that investigators had to use ATVs to get to the crash site, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig.

Herwig also said the weather was misty and rainy at the time of the crash. However, relatives said Shakil had been a pilot for about five years and would not have flown if the weather were not clear.

Witnesses told investigators the plane flew low over a house, and the engine was sputtering. They heard a loud boom and saw black smoke when the plane hit nose-first into a tree and ruptured, according to a report from the FAA.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released no details from the crash investigation.

Shakil married Farida, 51, in 1978. The couple had lived in Cape Girardeau since 1980.

While a prominent neurologist who routinely delivered lectures on his specialty and treated nearly 120 patients a week, Shakil also was a leader at Cape Girardeau's Islamic Center.

Highly respected

Family friend Omar Aziz remembers Shakil and his wife as role models.

"He was a very caring person, with good morals and a friendly attitude." Aziz said. "He always wanted to do good things for society and the community. Farida was a very loving and warm person, soft-spoken and good-natured. She was very religious and played a very active part at the Islamic Center."

Adelaide Parsons, director of international programs at Southeast Missouri State University, said Shakil, who was from Pakistan, put a human face on Islam after last year's terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

"He was just a man of tremendous integrity. He was just very comfortable with his religion and his faith," said Parsons.

Shakil publicly condemned the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks only days after the tragedy last year. "Lots of innocent lives were lost," he said. "Lots of children became orphans. It hurts us like it hurt everyone to see those pictures. It makes us cry."

Dr. Byron Glenn, a Cape Girardeau physician, was a close friend of the Shakil family.

"I am basically just devastated," said Glenn, who last saw Shakil at noontime prayers at the Islamic Center on Friday. "It is just a poignant reminder that tomorrow is not promised to anyone."

Glenn said Shakil was respected by his fellow doctors. "From a physician standpoint, he was just an enormous asset," Glenn said.

School friends said Osman talked about studying business at college, possibly attending Southeast Missouri State University.

Hassan, who would have turned 15 on Nov. 1, was excited about beginning to drive. The girls were remembered Monday by relatives and friends as sweet and caring children.

335-6611, extension 160

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