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ONGC officials among 5 killed in chopper crash off Mumbai coast, 2 missing

The Pawan Hans helicopter, which was carrying 5 ONGC employees, lost contact with the Air Traffic Control around 10.35am.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2018 23:57 IST
Neha Tripathi
Neha Tripathi
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Chopper missing,ONGC,Mumbai news
Indian Coast Guard personnel search for missing people off the coast of Mumbai after a helicopter crash on Saturday. (HT Photo)

A Pawan Hans helicopter carrying seven people, including five senior officials of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC), crashed off Mumbai’s coast on Saturday morning. While bodies of five people were recovered after day-long rescue operations by multiple agencies, two people were missing till midnight.

The chopper had taken off from the Juhu airport at 10.14am and was travelling towards an oil rig, NQO, at Bombay High, when it crashed around 30 nautical miles off the city’s coast. The pilots of the chopper lost contact with the ONGC air traffic control (ATC) around 10.33am.

Sources involved with the rescue operations said the chopper could have exploded as they found debris scattered in the sea.

The ill-fated Dauphin SA365N3 helicopter had two senior pilots – captains Ramesh Ohatkar and VC Katoch – at the controls and ONGC employees on board were identified as R Saravanan, PN Sreenivasan, Jose Antony, Pankaj Garg and VK Bindu Lal Babu – all deputy general managers.

At the time of going to press, the bodies of Sreenivasan, Antony and Garg were identified, while officials were still trying to establish the identity of the other two victims.

Earlier, after the chopper had lost contact with the ONGC ATC, the Mumbai ATC and Pawan Hans officials had alerted the Indian Coast Guard and the Navy. The Coast Guard and Navy deployed their assets for the search and rescue operations around 11.20am. The debris of the chopper was spotted around 1.30pm and ships were moved towards the area, where five bodies were found.

The accident, according to sources, happened after the Juhu ATC handed over the helicopter flight path to the ONGC ATC located in the high seas. “The helicopter was flying at a height of 700 feet till the time it was coordinating with the Juhu ATC. At the time of the crash, it was at a height of 2,200 feet,” said a Juhu ATC official.

Officials of ONGC contacted all helipads for information on the helicopter before sending out a distress call.

The civil aviation ministry has directed the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) to conduct a detailed probe into the accident, which is the twenty-first of its kind since the inception of Pawan Hans 31 years ago.

Dharmendra Pradhan, minister of petroleum and natural gas, flew to Mumbai to oversee the search and rescue operations. Pradhan told ANI, “It is a sad and painful incident for ONGC.”

First Published: Jan 13, 2018 13:20 IST