A Border Security Force (BSF) Dhruv helicopter on anti-Naxal duty in Jharkhand crashed on the outskirts of Ranchi on Wednesday, killing two pilots and a technician of the paramilitary agency's air wing on board.
The pilots, Captain SP Singh and Captain KV Thomas, and technician Manoj Swain died in the crash around 8.50am at Namkum forest near Kolad village, 40 km from the state capital, police said.
The advanced light helicopter was going to Chaibasa from Ranchi when its engine caught fire, said a BSF official. This is the fourth Dhruv crash in the last one year in the country.
"I saw the chopper turning upside down before it crashed with a loud noise," said shepherd Sitaram Munda who was grazing cattle nearby.
The helicopter had been pressed into anti-Naxal operations for relief and rescue work. The BSF had engaged two Dhruv helicopters in Jharkhand - where 18 of the 24 districts are Naxal-affected - around a year back.
According to a government official, a union rural development ministry team was scheduled to visit Saranda jungle, a Maoist stronghold. The helicopter took off at 8.40am for a recce and the central team was supposed to follow.
Ranchi senior superintendent of police Saket Kumar Singh said, "Directorate general of civil aviation officials have reached the crash site. There are people from Indian Air Force's Kalaikunda air base and state civil aviation department as well. They are investigating the causes of the crash."
Developed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Dhruv is designed to meet the requirements of both military and civil operators.