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Tragedy grounds ace pilot

delhi Updated: Apr 05, 2008 03:46 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times
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Nine-year-old Sukrit has been telling stories to his father, Wing Commander Vikas Jetly, for the last 14 months. His father, however, lies oblivious to his son’s existence. Jetly slipped into coma after his helicopter crashed last February.

His daughter Tanisha (5) prays for him. But there’s no knowing how long the children will have to cling to hope, as military doctors have no answers.

The world of the 40-year-old — who performed stunts for the Indian Air Force’s Sarang helicopter display team — shrunk to a single bed at the Air Force Command Hospital, Bangalore, after he crashed on the city’s outskirts.

While Jetly survived with serious head injuries, co-pilot Squadron Leader Priye Sharma was killed. Sarang, Sanskrit for peacock, is rated as one of the best helicopter display teams in the world, alongside British Army Air Corps’ Blue Eagles and Royal Navy’s Black Cats.

Wife Shalini is not exactly dying to see her husband perform dazzling stunts again. Her wish list is modest. “The children miss him a lot. When he regains consciousness, I hope he can recognise us. Sukrit cries for his father. He has been my tower of strength. Happiness will return only when he smiles again,” she told HT from Bangalore.

The Air Force is doing its bit. Had it not been for its support, especially Jetly’s 151 Helicopter Unit, Shalini said her life would have crumbled long ago.

After a year of Jetly’s hospitalisation, doctors had almost given up and were thinking of boarding him out of service on medical grounds. But the Air Force got Jetly’s condition classified as battlefield injury, with a 30-month sick leave. Time is running out for Jetly. But who knows, Tanisha’s prayers may change his destiny. And hers.