Forensic experts to visit site of Pawan Hans chopper crash, reconstruct sequence of events

The helicopter, with five senior ONGC officials and two pilots on-board, crashed off the Mumbai coast minutes after it took off

mumbai Updated: Jan 16, 2018 00:00 IST
Sadaguru Pandit
Sadaguru Pandit
Hindustan Times
Pawan Hans chopper crash,ONGC,Mumbai coast
Coast Guard personnel looking for missing people following the chopper crash.(HT)

Forensic experts from Dr R N Cooper Hospital are likely to visit the Juhu aerodrome and the site of the Pawan Hans helicopter crash to fill in gaps in the sequence of events that led to accident. They said they hope the information will help them identify body parts found in the sea.

The helicopter, with five senior Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) officials and two pilots on-board, crashed off the Mumbai coast minutes after it took off for the state-owned company’s oil installation in Bombay High on Saturday morning.

“Forensic experts requested us to examine a similar helicopter and note details of the passengers’ seating arrangement. Experts said this will help them corroborate the nature of injuries and how they were inflicted,” said a senior Pawan Hans official.

A primary report of the autopsy has revealed that a leg, recovered during Navy search operations, belongs to one of the three ONGC officials identified. “At Nanavati Hospital, the leg was mistaken for a torso as it was swollen. The spokesperson thus counted it as a part belonging to the sixth victim. However, its anatomical structure and mass indicate that it belongs to one of the three passengers,” said forensic experts.

They said an absence of limbs and mutilated state of the bodies made completing the autopsy report a challenge. “Three victims lost lower limbs, two others lost one hand each and one of the victims lost a hand and both legs. Burns, caused by the flammable liquid in the helicopter, were found on the bodies of two passengers,” the experts added.

On Sunday night, the Navy recovered the section of a hand and an intestine. “The limb, which was in the water for more than 36 hours, got decomposed. It is difficult to ascertain its original structure or weight,” said a forensic doctor from Cooper Hospital.

The family of VK Bindu Lal Babu, ONGC deputy general manager, visited the hospital on Monday to identify the hand. “There were two rings on the hand’s fingers. Babu’s family said the hand was not his as he did not wear two rings,” said police.

‘ONGC to blame for delay, confusion’

Doctors from Cooper Hospital said the confusion over the total number of bodies found, delay in the post mortem and handing over the bodies to the families could have been avoided had ONGC officials brought them directly to the hospital. Officials said ONGC officials had initially requested that the autopsies be conducted at Nanavati Hospital, which neither has forensic doctors nor the expertise to conduct an autopsy. Sources from Nanavati Hospital said the victims were brought there as the hospital has a tie-up with the ONGC. A team from Cooper Hospital has collected DNA samples of all the recovered bodies and will match them to the limb to confirm if it belongs to them.

Search ops continue for third day

The Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard’s search and rescue ships and aircraft, along with ONGC vessels, continued operations for the third day to trace the missing people who were on-board the Pawan Hans helicopter that crashed about 30 nautical miles off the Mumbai coast on Saturday. One more body was recovered and is believed to be that of the missing chopper crew member. Indian Coast Guard Ship Samrat, which is leading the operations, also recovered the chopper’s rotor blades, main gear box, tail gear box, both engines, emergency locator transmitter and several other instruments, said the ICG press release. The Coast Guard’s Dornier aircraft continued to scan the area in search of debris and body parts. On Sunday morning, a high-level delegation from ONGC and Pawan Hans visited the Coast Guard headquarters’ west region in Worli to assess the situation and formulate a strategy to recover debris and body parts, said commandant Varun Augustya. The Coast Guard assured the ONGC of its help

First Published: Jan 15, 2018 23:59 IST