AN investigation has been launched by the Health Ministry into the death of a Bahraini toddler aboard a flight to India, it emerged yesterday.
Gulf Air is also launching a separate internal investigation to establish whether anyone was to blame for the tragedy.
A special committee will be set up to find out what caused one-year-old Fatima Tariq Yousuf to suffer from heart failure while travelling with her mother to Chennai, a ministry spokeswoman told the GDN.
It will be run by the Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) Patient Advocacy Office, which handles complaints, and will include medical officials from other hospitals.
No timescale has been given for how long the investigation will take, but is expected to begin within days.
"We are going to investigate this matter after taking permission from the baby's father and mother," said the spokeswoman.
"We are waiting for the family to come to the ministry to fill the relevant forms.
"The investigation will not only be with doctors from the SMC but also other hospitals."
Khooton Al Mohana, 34, and her mother-in-law Aysha were travelling with Fatima from Bahrain to the south Indian city, where she was scheduled to undergo surgery for a heart condition at the Frontier Lifeline Hospital.
The child's parents were informed shortly after Fatima was born that she had a congenital heart problem. They immediately took her to the Chennai hospital, but doctors said at the time she was too young for surgery and to come back when she was older.
The family was aboard a Gulf Air flight when Fatima developed breathing problems at around 1am (Bahrain time) and died of heart failure within minutes.
A medical team from the SMC had been travelling with the family, but were unable to save Fatima when her condition rapidly deteriorated.
A fax, which the Health Ministry had sent to Gulf Air to alert them of Fatima's requirements in advance of the flight, stated she should be seated in the first row of the plane and an oxygen ventilator be secured to the seat next to her.
The document also mentioned she would be accompanied by a nurse and inhalation therapist.
However, Mr Yousuf said the cabin crew insisted Fatima's medical equipment be placed in the overhead lockers until after the plane took off.
He also stated the airline's cabin crew appeared to know nothing about her in-flight requirements.
Mr Yousuf said the couple, who have five other children aged between five and 17, were not planning to file a case against the airline, but want a thorough investigation.
"We are not looking for compensation," he said.
"We want to know who made the mistake and they should be punished by court.
"My baby has gone already, but what about other people who are going to fly while sick."
Mr Yousuf said the crew stored Fatima's medical equipment in the overhead locker until after take-off, when it was supposed to have been secured in the seat next to her.
He said his wife was so distressed at the situation that she wanted to disembark before take off but the crew persuaded her not to.
"Gulf Air did everything wrong," said the 45-year-old businessman, who lives in Riffa.
"The staff told me they did not know a sick baby was coming.
"They put them in the middle of the plane and afterwards brought them to the front."
Gulf Air officials said an internal investigation was underway to establish whether anyone was to blame for the tragedy.
"Our deepest sympathies go to the family and, as with all incidents of this nature, we are conducting our own full and thorough investigation," said a spokesman.
He declined to comment further until the investigation is complete, but sources denied the crew had not been informed about the case.
They also said the initial findings of the airline's investigation show it did everything possible to help the child and took all the necessary precautions to ensure a smooth journey.