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Families of victims are in a state of shock

A State Govt copter with four on board had gone missing on Jul 14 and was traced today, reports Ejaz Kaiser.
Hindustan Times | By Ejaz Kaiser, Raipur
UPDATED ON JUL 18, 2007 06:54 PM IST

The worst ordeal descended on the families of the crew-members of an ill-fated Chhattisgarh government chopper as the news of tracing of crashed wreckage and bodies reached Raipur early on Wednesday morning.

After spending four sleepless nights, the crew members' kin could not believe that they are no more.

Case of the missing copter

• A State Govt helicopter took off at 11.50 am on Saturday from Bhopal for Raipur.

• Went missing and there was no trace of it till Sunday evening.

• Four people were on board.

• Capt AS Sidhu was the pilot and VikramSavekar co-pilot.

• Some people at Posera village close to the border were the last to spot it.

• The area where the copter went missing is a Naxal-infested area.

Missing copter found in Ch'garh, 4 dead

The family members are in state of shock and inconsolable. Their relatives said that with no authentic information reaching them whether the chopper was simply missing or crashed they were praying and hoping for safe returns of four-crew members.

Pilot Capt AS Sidhu, co-pilot Vikram Savekar, engineer Amitabh Soni and technician Manish Badania were on board in a crashed chopper - 'Eurocopter EC- 135'. Except Savekar who was based in Durg and remaining three resided in Raipur.

The chopper went missing after it took off from Bhopal for Raipur on July 14 noon.

A pall of gloom descended on their colonies as the news about the tragedy reached them. The close relatives, friends and community members crowded the residences of the crew members.

The state Civil Aviation Director Anil Tuteja, chief pilot Captain DS Mishra and other officials visited the bereaved family members and offered condolence. The state government declared to offer an assistance of Rs 10 lakhs each. The bodies are to be brought to Raipur in the evening, according to the officials.

The wreckage of the missing chopper was reportedly found in village Lamhra under Bakarghatta police station in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh.

The EC-135 is a twin-engine helicopter produced by Eurocopter. The product is a joint venture of Germany and France. The ill-fated chopper was purchased by the Jogi Govt in 2002. Such helicopters are widely used by state government, police and also ambulance services. Priced at Rs 17 crore, the Raman Singh Govt had recently made up its mind to sell it off and was actively searching for its buyer.
A farmer Mahasingh of village Lamara had gone to a field with his pet dog and buffalo on Tuesday morning. He took a bath in river Tandi, which is flowing on the borders of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. Not finding his pet dog he began searching for it and eventually crossed the other bank of the river in MP. He found his dog was standing near some charred human bodies. He also sighted some debris of the crashed chopper nearby and informed his village sarpanch following which the matter was reported to Bakargatta police station in Rajnandgaon.

Chief Minister Raman Singh informed the ongoing Assembly House about locating of the crashed chopper and bodies.

All previous efforts in the last four days to trace the missing chopper by the helicopters of Indian Air Force and Madhya Pradesh government proved futile. The police team and the staff of forest department who were pressed in ground searching also turned out hopeless. Several erroneous reports of possible 'sighting' of the debris of the craft earlier came from the forest and hilly regions of Balaghat and Mandla districts of Madhya Pradesh and Kawardha in Chhattisgarh.

The Eurocopter was reportedly missing in a hilly terrain of Madhya Pradesh an hour after the take-off from Bhopal. "The chopper had gone to Bhopal for maintenance", said Tuteja.

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