Probe into flight accident at airport begins; co-pilot undergoes surgery
A team from the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has arrived in Mumbai to probe an accident involving a private charter aircraft. The aircraft veered off the runway during touchdown, leaving eight people injured. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has also begun an investigation. Four of the injured have been discharged from hospital, while the co-pilot underwent surgery for a spinal injury. The aircraft, a Learjet 45, was hired by a Mumbai-based shipping firm and was carrying eight people when the accident occurred.
A team from Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), under the ministry of civil aviation, landed in Mumbai late on Thursday night to probe the accident involving a private charted aircraft that veered off the runway during touchdown, leaving eight people on board injured. The team, headed by assistant director K Ramchandra, has started recording statements of officials, people familiar with the matter said.
Meanwhile, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has begun a parallel investigation.
On Friday, four of the injured were discharged from Criticare Asia Hospital in Andheri East. The co-pilot, Neil Diwan, was shifted to Kokilaben Ambani Hospital where he underwent a spine-related surgery.
Diwan had a burst fracture of D12 with paraplegia and there was a sternal fracture with anterior mediastinal haemorrhage. “He was paralysed below the waist. He was operated upon by spine surgeon Abhijit Pawar,” an official at the hospital said.
Rohit Singh from VSR Ventures that owns the aircraft said, “The AAIB team is in Mumbai, and we are cooperating with the investigators. We pray our co-pilot recovers fast. We are bearing the costs of hospitalisation for all. I still feel bad weather was the cause of the accident.”
The flight, Learjet 45, was hired by Mumbai-based shipping firm J M Baxi and Company. It took off from Vizag at 3.23pm on Thursday with eight people on board - company CMD Dhruv Kotak, Krishnadas Kodalil, Aakaarsh Sethi, Arul Damodar Sali, Lars Henrik Ostergaard Sorensen, who is from Denmark, flight attendant Kamakshi Shringarpure, captain Sunil Kanjarbhat (pilot), and captain Neil Diwan (co-pilot). While landing at 5.02pm, the aircraft skidded off runway 27 at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport.
Both the pilots were trapped in the cockpit and deputy chief fire officer Harish Shetty from Mumbai fire brigade said they had to cut open the glass and the cockpit with metal cutters to pull the duo out. The pilot, Kanjarbhat, suffered multiple abrasions with trauma to chest wall and spine, scalp haematoma, axonal injury and wedge compression, officials said.
Dr Deepak Namjoshi, who owns Criticare Asia Hospital, said Kotak, Sali, Shringarpure and Sethi were discharged on Friday.
Fire officers cut open cockpit to pull pilots out
After the aircraft crash-landed, the Mumbai fire brigade played a crucial role in rescuing the pilot, Sunil Kanjarbhat, and the co-pilot, Neil Diwan, who were stuck in the cockpit.
Station officer Swapnil Shirsat at Marol fire station, who first received the call from the airport, said a fire engine, a jumbo tanker, a rescue van and an aerial water tower tender were immediately sent to the spot.
“By the time we reached, the airport rescue team had already removed six people from the flight. However, the two pilots were stuck inside, and they were in a semi-conscious state,” he said.
Realising the seriousness of the situation, the fire brigade sent assistant divisional fire officer S K Sawant, divisional officer Pandurang Dudhal and deputy chief fire officer Harish Shetty to the airport.
The cockpit door was jammed, Sawant said. “We first used metal cutters to cut open the glass so that the pilots got fresh air. We then cut open the cockpit as legs of the pilots were stuck inside.”
Shetty, who led the operation, said, “While we cut the cockpit, we had to use a water hose to ensure that there was no fire as sparks flew and there was aviation turbine fuel on the spot. One foam tender was also put on stand-by. Finally, we removed the pilots and sent them to a hospital.”