Mumbai: At least five people were killed when a Pawan Hans helicopter with at least five top ONGC officials and two pilots on board crashed shortly after take-off from Juhu Airport here on Saturday morning, officials said.
A massive sea and aerial search operation launched by Indian Coast Guard and other agencies, had, till this evening, found five bodies besides some wreckage of the the crashed chopper and life-jackets.
Indian Coast Guard ship Agrim has recovered some of the bodies, including of an official identified as Pankaj Garg from the crash, while a search continues for the other missing.
The ONGC officers – all Deputy General Managers, have been identified as Sarvananan, V. K. Babu, Jose Anthony, Garg and P. Srinivasan, besides the Pawan Hans pilots whose identity is not known yet.
A Coast Guard official said parts of the debris of the chopper have been found near Uttan Beach in Thane district.
The Dauphin chopper took off at 10.20 a.m but just 15 minutes later, it suddenly lost contact with both the Mumbai ATC and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).
At that time, it was reported to be flying around 55 km off the Mumbai shoreline, on a regular sortie to ferry the officers to the ONGC’s Bombay High oilfields, around 175 km northwest from here.
Four Indian Navy ships including waterjet fast attack craft INS Tarasa, a Boeing P8i and a Seaking helicopter joined the search operations, while the Coast Guard deployed five ships and two Dornier aircraft and two helicopters to the crash region for the search and rescue operation which continued this evening, said an official spokesperson.
A pall of gloom descended at Silver Square CHS in Kalina, Santacruz east where Garg, 50, had been living since 15 years with his wife, a minor daughter besides a grown-up daughter studying in an engineering college out of Maharashtra.
“He was a very nice person, a great human being with a helpful nature. We society members are shocked at this sudden tragedy,” Joy Francis, the society’s secretary told media persons this evening.