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IAF chopper crashes in U'khand; all 19 onboard killed

Last updated on: June 25, 2013 21:58 IST

IAF chopper crashes in U'khand; all 19 onboard killed

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Suneel Pande in Haridwar

Nineteen army men, including personnel from Indian Tibetan Border Police, Indian Air Force, National Disaster Response Force and Indian Army were killed on Tuesday when a sophisticated IAF helicopter crashed in bad weather near Gaurikund in Uttarakhand during rescue operations.

The ill-fated Mi-17 V5 chopper had 19 personnel onboard, none of whom have survived, latest reports state.

Vice Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority M Sashidhar Reddy earlier said eight bodies were recovered and chances of any survivor among the 19 onboard were remote. "There were 19 people onboard including the National Disaster Response Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and IAF personnel. Eight bodies have been recovered," he said.

An IAF spokesperson said in Delhi, "One Mi-17 V5 chopper on a rescue mission from Gauchar to Guptkashi and Kedarnath while returning from Kedarnath crashed north of Gaurikund." Among those killed were three IAF officers, she said.

Rudraprayag SP Varinderjeet Singh said the cause of the crash is not immediately known but chances are high that the mishap occurred due to bad weather.

A senior Air Force officer in Gauchar said the Mi-17 chopper had made two sorties to the Kedarnath area since this morning and was on its third sortie when it crashed. The crash occurred in "difficult" weather conditions created by rains and fog, he said.

There is speculation that IAF chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne may visit the rain-ravaged state on Wednesday.

With inputs from PTI

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Image: The flood relief reached from Dehradun to Guptkashi, Uttarakhand
Photographs: Courtesy: PIB

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IAF chopper crashes in U'khand; all 19 onboard killed

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The chopper belonged to a unit from Barrackpore air force station in West Bengal under the Eastern Air Command.  A court of inquiry has been order to investigate the crash, the spokesperson said.

The helicopter ferried wood and pooja material to Kedarnath for the last rites of victims killed in the floods in the morning. The chopper had taken off at 12.30 pm after rescuing 15 pilgrims who were stranded for a week and crashed within five to seven minutes.

The IAF said its operations in the area will continue. The IAF had started inducting Mi-17 V5 choppers only last year after 80 of them were ordered from Russia. This is the second incident of a helicopter crash this week in the hill state.

A private helicopter carrying relief materials for the rain-affected people in Rudraprayag district had crashed on Sunday near Gaurikund leaving the pilot injured.

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Photographs: Courtesy: KBK graphic

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IAF chopper crashes in U'khand; all 19 onboard killed

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Air force officials said eight bodies have been recovered from the crash site by the Garud commandos of the IAF. They said the chopper had taken off at 12.30 pm from Kedarnath area and crashed within five to seven minutes.

Defence Minister A K Antony has expressed anguish over the crash.

A pall of gloom descended at the helipad after reports of the crash reached.

The IAF, army and ITBP officers went into a huddle at a tent erected by the air force for controlling its operations. Senior officials of the agencies involved in the rescue operations also rushed to the helipad.

IAF officers were seen making anxious calls over their cellphones and restricted frequency equipment to fine tune the operations and gather details of the crash. The presence of local police officials has been beefed up in the area after the mishap.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed shock at the loss of lives in a helicopter crash during relief operations in flood-hit Uttarakhand.

"This accident during relief operations has come as a huge shock to me. My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost their lives. The nation mourns with me the loss of our heroes whose selfless work has saved thousands of lives," Dr Singh said.

"Our forces are conducting a heroic task in rescue and relief work in Uttarakhand. ... Continuing their work would be the best homage to them," he added.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has announced an aid of Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the kin of the IAF crew killed in the mishap.    

         


Image: Pilgrims rescued from Gangotri arrive at Dharasu, Uttarakhand
Photographs: Courtesy: PIB

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