Major Abhijai Thapa, 29, who was killed in a chopper crash at Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh in October last year, will be posthumously awarded Shaurya Chakra, the third highest peacetime gallantry award, on Republic Day.
Hailing from Dharamsala- headquarters of the Kangra district, Major Thapa, who was serving in Army Aviation Corps, was killed along with his two comrades Major Major Vikas Varyani, 29, and Captain Avinash Somavanshi on October 1, 2014 after the Cheetah helicopter they were flying in crashed due to a technical snag.
Having been a trained pilot, Major Thapa had an experience of more than 250 flying hours and was posted with 39 (independent) Recce and Observations Flight under the Uttar Bharat Area Headquarters in Bareilly.
On the fateful day, Major Thapa was nominated as captain of the aircraft for operational readiness consolidation sortie for OP IRON FIST for induction into operational area and battle inoculation of aviators.
The aircraft suffered a catastrophic failure of tail rotor while flying over the heavily populated area of Bhartol village and unit lines of 54 Engineer Regiment where a Sainik Sammelan was in progress.
Major Thapa, having identified the emergency promptly brought the problem to the notice of air traffic controller (ATC) and tried desperately to maneuvering the crippled chopper away from the inhabited area.
Keeping the safety of villagers as primary concern, Major Thapa exhibited indomitable valour, courage and disregard for personal safety. He took the chopper towards the aviation base and disconnected the fuel supply in order to minimize the collateral damage. Major Thapa and his colleagues could not get time to eject as the chopper was very close to the ground.
“The aviator successfully diverted the aircraft despite the tremendous damage suffered in order to save the lives of his brethren in uniform and populace of village Bhartol. Major Abhijai put the lives of these men ahead of his own and sacrificed himself in the process,” reads the citation uploaded on the website of Indian Army.
“For upholding the credo of service self and sacrificing his life to save the soldiers of 54 Engineer Regiment and the civilian populace, Major Thapa is recommended for the award of Shaurya Chakra (posthumous),” adds the citation.
Meanwhile, his proud father Sunil Thapa said the award was recognition selfless, heroic act of his son who made supreme sacrifice by taking a bold decision at the hour of crisis and saved hundreds of lives.
“His demise is heartbreaking and irreparable loss to the family. We are proud of him for he laid his life in service of nation,” Sunil added.