A Pawan Hans Mi-17 helicopter (VT-PHF) carrying 23 people, including five crew, crashed into the hills and went up in flames in the frontier state of Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday, killing 17 people on board. The pilot and five others miraculously survived but suffered burn injuries, news agencies reported.
Seventeen persons were killed while two crew members, including the pilot, Capt. Varun Gupta, and four passengers survived with grievous injuries, Tawang deputy commissioner Gamlin Padu was quoted as saying by PTI. The injured were rushed to a civil and would be airlifted to Guwahati on Wednesday, he said.
Defence sources told this newspaper the incident took place when the helicopter was about to land on a state government-owned helipad in Tawang, located at an altitude of 11,000 feet.
Though no representative of Pawan Hans was available to give information about the incident, defence sources said, “There were 18 passengers, of whom two were minors, and two pilots, besides three crew members, on board the helicopter when it crashed into a hill just as it was approaching the helipad at Tawang.”
Army rescue teams at Tawang were called in but the helicopter had crashed in a deep gorge so it would take time for the rescue teams to reach the crash site, defence sources said.
The Mi-17 helicopter took off from Guwahati, in Assam, for Tawang at 12.50 pm and crashed around 2 pm.
Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd operates daily helicopter services between Guwahati and Tawang, and to other remote locations in Arunachal Pradesh and the rest of the Northeast.
The civil aviation ministry will soon set up an inquiry committee to investigate the crash of the helicopter. Pawan Hans functions under the purview of the civil aviation ministry.
“The helicopter crashlanded due to likely wind shear and down draft while landing and caught fire on impact with the ground. Officers from DGCA have rushed to the site of the accident and an inquiry has been ordered. The DGCA, along with a team of senior officials, would be visiting the accident site tomorrow. The government is likely to set up a committee to investigate the accident. The helicopter was manufactured in 1996,” the ministry said in New Delhi. Asian Age