In one of the worst helicopter crashes in Arunachal Pradesh, 17 persons including three crew members were killed and six others injured when it caught fire and plunged into a gorge in Tawang district on Tuesday. The Pawan Hans Mi17 chopper was flying to Tawang from the Lokopriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati and had taken off at 1245 hours, agency sources said.
Pilots Captain Varun Gupta and Captain A K Tiwari were scheduled to land at the Tawang Civil helipad at 1.20 pm. It caught fire, broke into pieces and crashed into a gorge close to the helipad at around 1.57 pm, the sources said.
While 17 persons on board were killed, two crew members and four passengers survived with grievous injuries, Tawang Deputy Commissioner Gamlin Padu said. The injured were rushed to the civil hospital at Tawang and would be air-lifted to Guwahati tomorrow, the DC said. This is the second helicopter crash in the district bordering China. Earlier on November 19 last year an Indian
Air Force MI 17 chopper crashed minutes after takeoff killing all 12 on board. The cause of the crash was yet to be ascertained though a technical snag could not be ruled out, Pawan Hans sources said.
Security forces along with the locals have swung into the rescue operation. Those killed were identified as Mrs Anita, A Baruah, Dr Tendon, Dr Asif, Mrs R Asif, Mrs Jahara, Ms Asif, Master Asif, Mr A Sharma, A K Saraugi, Ms N Botha, Col Sharma, Mr W Bhatia, Mr T Mustafa.
The three crew members killed were Captain Tiwari, Flight Attendant A Dixit and Assistant Maintenance Engineer S B Kulkarni. Those who survived the crash included Captain Varun Gupta, Randiv Kumar Chaturvedi, Dorjee Wangdi, Rishi Bothra, Rajendra Pal and Mrs Karishma Saraugi.
The district administration has declared a holiday tomorrow to condole the death of 17 people. Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu who was at Tawang to attend a meeting along with Union Rural Development Minister Vilas Rao Deshmukh, expressed shock at the accident and condoled the deaths.
"I am shocked and pained to hear about the unfortunate incident and have no words to share my grief on the sad occasion," Khandu said in his condolence message. "I along with my family members, my cabinet colleagues and people of Arunachal Pradesh pay our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family members to bear this irreparable loss.
I am aware how futile my word of condolence would mean to you but we must take solace that souls are immortal," the message read.