“The trees saved us. If we plunged to the ground straight, we may not have survived,” Sanjeev Shankar, the technician who survived Sunday’s tragic helicopter crash at Aarey Milk Colony, told HT.
Shankar, 24, suffered two fractures and is now recuperating at home. “The injuries on my chest make it difficult to talk,” he said.
The chopper ride was booked by Ritesh Modi to celebrate his wedding anniversary with wife Vrinda on Sunday. The crash killed the pilot and Ritesh, while Vrinda is still in hospital.
“I was sitting on the co-pilot seat and Vrinda was sitting behind me. Ritesh was seated behind the pilot,” said Shankar, adding that he and Vrinda survived because of where they were sitting. The helicopter took off from the Juhu airport, finished one round of the joy ride flying over Powai and Vihar lakes and hovering over Film City near Aarey Milk Colony, Shankar said.
“It was on the second round, when we flew over Film City again and headed towards Powai lake,when the pilot felt there was a clutch failure,” Shankar said.
“We soon realised it was an emergency and that we had to land immediately. We desperately searched for flat ground , but only found one where children were playing.”
Shankar said the pilot informed Air Traffic Control (ATC) that the chopper was going to attempt an emergency landing. “We couldn’t use the ground because the children could have been harmed. I then spotted an alternate site 100 metres away.”
In the final minutes, Shankar said nobody realised what was happening. “The aircraft just took a plunge and started plummeting. We were 500-600 feet above the ground, enough to take everybody’s life instantly,” said Shankar.
The helicopter, he said, crashed into several trees first before hitting the ground, and this reduced the impact.
“The moment the helicopter hit the trees, something hit me on the head and I lost consciousness. When I opened my eyes, the helicopter was on the ground, on its right. The pilot was bleeding profusely,” Shankar said. “This is probably why it Ritesh and the pilot were killed. Had it fallen on the left side, Vrinda and I may not have survived.”
Shankar said all four passengers were wearing seat belts, but that this also made it impossible for him to move out of the helicopter. “The seat belts saved my life, but we also couldn’t move and call for help.” Shankar was the first to be rescued and taken to Sevenhills Hospital in Marol — the nearest major medical facility .
Shankar, who is from Patna, plans to go back to back to work in a fortnight. “I used to work with an aviation firm in Patna and have 300 hours flying experience. I have no issues going back to work. But the memory of us plunging towards the ground, will cause me sleepless nights.”