Four Army personnel were killed in a Dhruv helicopter crash in north Sikkim near the Sino-India border, days after a Pawan Hans chopper went down in the northeast claiming 17 lives.
Wreckage of the advanced light helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, which had gone missing yesterday, was traced in the Shiv Mandir area by Army choppers at 0930 hours today and ground parties reached the spot an hour-and-a-half later, Eastern Army Command sources said.
The bodies of two pilots and two soldiers were found at the spot, they said.
"Though it seems that the helicopter had crashed due to the inclement weather in the region, a Court of Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the reasons behind it," they said.
The sources said the helicopter was carrying two pilots of the rank of major and two technicians, one of whom was a junior commissioned officer while the other a non-commissioned officer.
The helicopter had taken off in tandem with another Dhruv on Thursday at 0930 hours from Sewak road base in Siliguri on a routine training exercise but lost contact with it around 1130 hours over the Shiv Mandir area.
The chopper was flying at about 15,000 feet near the Yumisamdong area which is now under a thick blanket of snow and covered with dense forest.The area is around 15 km north of Lachung village in north Sikkim.
The army had yesterday launched a major search operation but had postponed it after five hours till the morning due to inclement weather.
On April 19, a Russian-origin MI-17-2 chopper --owned by Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd (PHHL) -- crashed claiming 17 lives after it took off from Guwahati for Tawang.
Dhruv is an indigenously-developed helicopter and has been inducted into the Army and the IAF. A total of five accidents involving the ALH Dhruv have taken place in the last six years including two fatal ones.
In the first incident in 2005, the whole fleet of the chopper was grounded after it experienced a forced landing in Andhra Pradesh due to problems in the tail rotor.
In 2007, before the Aero India, two pilots were killed in a Dhruv crash involving IAF's aerobatic display team Sarang.
Similar incidents had taken place in 2009 and 2010 also. A Dhruv helicopter of the Ecuadorian Air Force hit the ground after veering off course while flying in formation with two other helicopters over an air force base near Quito.
In 2010, a Dhruv helicopter team of the Indian Air Force was forced to make a crash landing while rehearsing for the "Vayu Shakti" show.