A small 20-year-old Border Security Force plane ferrying the force’s technical personnel to Ranchi on Tuesday crashed near Dwarka and burst into flames just outside IGI airport shortly after take-off killing all 10 people on board.
The ill-fated twin-engine Beechcraft Super King plane suddenly took a kind of u-turn towards the airport after taking off at 9.37 am and hit a tree while apparently approaching to land following a possible technical problem, according to officials from the Air Traffic Control and Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Three officers were among the victims, BSF officials said.
The 11-seater plane, inducted into the force in 1995, then smashed through a portion of the boundary wall at the edge of the airport near a railway track and landed in a sewage treatment plant, they said, adding the accident happened around 9.40 am amid reports the pilots may not have send any ‘mayday’ signal to the ATC. Closest residential settlements were about one kilometre away from the crash site.
“It is unfortunate that all 10 people including the pilots have died in the crash,” Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma said. There were two pilots on board the plane that crashed at Shahbad Mohammadpur village.
An inquiry has been ordered by Civil Aviation Ministry.
BSF sources said the technicians were on their way to Ranchi to repair a helicopter.
The DG-level talks between India and Bangladesh scheduled on Tuesday in Dhaka were cancelled in the wake of the crash, they said.
The bodies of all the 10 paramilitary personnel have been recovered and sent for post-mortem to SafdarjungHospital.
A BSF statement said the aircraft was “totally burnt” and the bodies of the pilots and crew were “charred” to death.
The victims were identified as chief pilot and Deputy Commandant Bhagwati Prasad Bhatt of BSF, Rajesh Shivrain, co-pilot and second-in-command of paramilitary SSB, Deputy Commandant D Kumar, Inspectors Raghvendra Kumar Yadav and S N Sharma, Sub-Inspectors Ravindra Kumar, Surendra Singh, C L Sharma, ASI D P Chauhan and Constable K R Rawat.
Eyewitnesses said the plane hit a wall outside the technical area of the airport before bursting into flames and then crashed into a water body.
“We saw a plane spiralling down which crashed near the wall where work was going on. I could spot one body. A labourer who was working was also injured,” an eyewitness Suraj said.
The area was engulfed in dense smoke and fire with pieces of aircraft spread around.
The pilots were very experienced and they had carried VIPs and delegates of the two-day DG/IG conference held recently in Bhuj, BSF Director General D K Pathak said.
Before flying out from Palam on Tuesday, the flight was again given an OK by ground technicians and staff, he said.
Several leaders, including President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, condoled the loss of lives in the crash.
'Pained by the loss of lives in the BSF plane crash in Delhi. My thoughts are with the families of the deceased,’ Modi said.
In a message to the BSF DG, the President said, ‘My thoughts and prayers are with the families, who have lost their near and dear ones. I am sure that all necessary help and assistance is being provided to the next of kin of the deceased.’
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh briefed the prime minister about the mishap and rushed to the crash site.
In his condolence message to the bereaved families, Singh said ‘his heart goes out to the families of those who died in the crash. The incident is extremely painful and shocking’.
Delhi Fire Service chief A K Sharma said 15 tenders were rushed to the spot to douse the flames
“The aircraft was absolutely fit and had undergone major engine overhaul about 6 months back at its factory in Canada. We do not know the exact reason of the crash but what we know is that it took a virtual U-turn towards the Palam air base after taking off and on return hit a tree and then the sewage treatment plant tank,” Pathak said.
According to Pathak, the plane did not hit the periphery wall.
“It will only be a conjecture to say what went wrong. The DGCA is probing and we have instituted a court of inquiry into it,” Pathak said, adding the flight was supposed to come back on Tuesday itself to the base in Delhi after dropping off the technicians.
The DG said he would not be able to comment if the ill-fated aircraft gave a ‘mayday’ signal to the ATC.
“The flight was on way for repair and servicing of a Mi-17 V5 stationed at Ranchi,” a BSF statement said.
Officials said the Mi-17 chopper based in Ranchi is tasked for air support roles in anti-Naxal operations.
The ceremonial wreath laying for the victims will be done at the BSF hangar at Safdarjung airport on Wednesday morning after which the bodies will be sent to various states.
The Delhi police, meanwhile, registered a case in connection with the crash.
“We have registered a first information report under Sections 304 A (causing death by negligence), 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the Indian Penal Code and investigation has been taken up,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (IGI airport) D K Gupta.
Local residents said there could have been more damage as the accident occurred at a site that neighbours a populous village, a railway line and a petroleum storage unit.
“There is a petroleum unit nearby, thank god, it did not crash there. Else, it would have been an inferno. Also, thankfully it flew over the neighbouring railway tracks. We are sorry for the loss of lives...the pilot didn't jeopardize lives of many others on the ground,” a top official of the Delhi Fire Service said.
Photographs: PTI, ANI/Twitter