In a tragic incident, a Pawan Hans helicopter heading towards ONGC’s north field with seven persons onboard crashed today. The chopper, Dauphin N3, bearing registration number VT-PWA, took off from Juhu aerodrome at 10.25 AM, with five ONGC employees and two pilots. Reports of lost connection with the chopper emerged within 10 minutes of its take off. After the missing report of the chopper surfaced, the Navy and Indian Coast Guard were pressed in for the search operations. A tweet from the Defence Minister read, “@indiannavy and @IndiaCoastGuard are extending all possible assistance in the #SAR Search and Rescue of @ONGC_ helicopter and pax on board. Wish for their safety. @DefenceMinIndia @dpradhanbjp (sic).”
Both the maritime forces sprang into action. “Water Jet Fast Attack Craft INS Tarasa, Boeing P8i from Naval Air Station INS Rajali and Seaking 42C helicopter have been deployed for search operations, ” Rakshi Mantri tweeted. The Indian Coast Guard has deployed 5 Ships, 2 Dornier and 2 Helicopters for the operation.
Taking cognizance of the development, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan rushed to Mumbai saying that he is going to “coordinate things”. Pradhan said ” I will discuss it with Defence Minister. She is also cooperating and has instructed Navy and Coast Guard to look into the issue extensively.”
Initially, the Indian Coast Guard had recovered three bodies while after a gap of half an hour another body was recovered, taking the total number of body recovered to four. The two deceased have been identified as ONGC’s deputy general manager Pankaj Garg and VK Bindu Lal Babu. The rescue operations are still on.
The chopper had been registered on February 28,2011. It is reported that the helicopter had just returned from an inspection and the engine was opened and serviced, before taking ONGC officials on board. “Since it is a clear accident, this chopper crash will be probed by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB),” a senior Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official said. AAIB is the apex body which probes serious incidents and accidents involving aircraft registered in India and comes under the civil aviation ministry.
Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha expressed deep anguish over the loss of lives. “IndiaCoastGuard Ship on receipt of information reached area, located the debris, picked up a body at 1230 hrs,” he wrote on Twitter.
President Ram Nath Kovind said, “Sad to learn about Pawan Hans helicopter crash off the coast of Mumbai. Thoughts with families of those who have lost their lives”. In a series of tweets, Kovind wrote, “Anguished to hear of boat carrying schoolchildren capsizing in Dahanu, Maharashtra. State government has rescued most of the passengers and is making efforts to trace those still missing. My condolences to bereaved families.”