A Pawan Hanshelicopter,
with two pilots and five ONGC deputy general
managers on board, crashed in the Arabian Sea about 55km northwest of Juhu
airport on Saturday morning. The chopper was on its way to a production
platform complex in BombayHigh
when tragedy struck.
The VTPWADauphin AS 365 N3 twin-engine helicopter
took off from Juhu at 10.14 and was scheduled to land at North Field of ONGC
at 10.58am but didn't land at the scheduled time. According to ONGC, the last
contact with the helicopter was at 10.33am. "Thereafter, the helicopter
was incommunicado. The ONGC control began contacting helipads in the vicinity
to check if it had landed elsewhere," an official said.
The Coast Guard and the Navy which being alerted
sprang into action with a Dornier aircraft and a Coast Guardship . Within an
hour, the aircraft found debris at the crash site and Coast Guard ship spotted
the first body around 2.30pm; and by 8.30pm, all six bodies had been recovered.
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.
As the news of the crash
spread, several ONGC employees gathered at the homes of the missing officials.
Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan visited the homes of ONGC DGMs P N
Srinivasan and Jose Antony at ONGC Colony in Bandra Reclamation from where he
proceeded to Vasai to meet Bindu Lal Babu's family.
major's chairman and managing director Shashi Shanker rushed to Mumbai to monitor the search operation.
In a statement, ONGC said, "The reason behind the
unfortunate incident is yet to be ascertained."
. Trying to
explain the cause of the crash, experts said it could have happened due to
aircraft engine mechanical failure or pilot disorientation owing to haze and
poor visibility. "For over two years now, Safran engines installed in
Dauphins have been suffering from start-up problems. The engine seizes during
starts. Pawan Hans has had 12-13 cases of Safran engine seizures in the past
two years," said a Pawan Hans official. A senior helicopter pilot said
though it was daylight, disorientation cannot be ruled out. Helicopters
performing offshore flights fly at about 2,500 feet at 250kmph and offshore,
visibility can be poor at times with haze
Production platforms are
immovable structures of about 300-500 sq m area where crude oil or natural gas
is produced. An ONGC official, requesting anonymity, said employees engaged in
offshore operations undergo a mandatory training on survival in sea and an
helicopter underwater egress training and test once every 3-4 years. The
training prepares them to carry out an emergency exit from an helicopter in
case of a planned or unplanned water landing. In this case, though, it appears
the helicopter crashed into the sea. "There is nothing that one can do in
case of a crash," the official said.
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.