A helicopter which was to fly a Punjab minister crashed at the airport here Thursday immediately after taking off, catching fire and injuring both the pilots. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered an inquiry.
The state-run Pawan Hans helicopter was heading to a helipad near Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's residence in Sector 1 when the crash took place and both its pilots were injured.
The helicopter was to fly Punjab's Industry and Local Government Minister Manoranjan Kalia to Mukerian in Hoshiarpur district.
"We were to take off at 10 a.m. As I was heading for the helipad, I got the message that the helicopter caught fire and crashed," Kalia said.
An official spokesperson of Punjab government here said: "We immediately informed Pawan Hans authorities and the DGCA about the incident. The DGCA has ordered a probe and dispatched an inquiry team to Chandigarh."
"The pilots, S.P.S. Brar and M.S. Brar, escaped from the wreckage with minor injuries. They were taken to Command Hospital and doctors declared them absolutely fine."
Airport officials said the helicopter caught fire just after it took off. It crashed within the airport.
Airport director H.S. Toor said: "The chopper has been completely damaged and rescue workers had to break its window-panes to make way for the pilots."
"We held a high-level meeting regarding the incident. We are taking it very seriously and a thorough probe will be conducted," he added.
Fire engines doused the blaze. The seven-seater helicopter was on lease with the Punjab government for 14 years and was used to fly VIPs, including the governor, the chief minister, the deputy chief minister and ministers.
Flights to and from the Chandigarh airport, which is with the Indian Air Force (IAF), were affected following the crash. Passengers of domestic flights were stranded at the airport.
The area where the helicopter crashed was cordoned off by police, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and airport officials.
In March 2005, two ministers of the then newly sworn-in Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in Haryana -- industrialist O.P. Jindal and Surender Singh -- were killed along with the pilot when a helicopter owned by Jindal Industries crashed near Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal escaped unhurt earlier this year when his helicopter, leased to the Punjab government, hit the branches of some trees while landing.
Former chief minister Amarinder Singh also survived two accidents -- one in Gurdaspur district and another at Pinjore, 20 km from Chandigarh.
In the first accident, his chopper fell just after take off, while in the second the helicopter landed on the ground of a school after suddenly losing height.