Two MI-17 helicopters of the Indian Air Force collided in mid-air in Gujarat’s Saurashtra region on Thursday, killing all nine IAF personnel aboard.

The collision occurred over Sarmat village, when the personnel were on a routine training mission. Each of the helicopters, which took off from the nearby Jamnagar airbase, carried a pilot, a co-pilot and two other trainees. One of them also carried a training officer practising target bombing. This is the first time two IAF helicopters collided in mid-air and fourth crash this year involving IAF aircraft.

According to the Jamnagar Superintendent of Police, most of the bodies were charred beyond recognition. Television footage showed the helicopters flying almost parallel to each other and their upper rotors colliding. While one of them went down, the tail portion of the other broke sending it into a spin before crashing. Both of them caught fire in the impact of the collision.

Defence spokesman group captain M.G. Mehta said a Court of Inquiry was ordered into the crash.

According to agency reports, IAF officers, police officials and the Jamnagar Municipal Corporation fire brigade reached the spot shortly after the crash. The firemen doused the burning wreckage.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony expressed sorrow at the tragic incident and conveyed his condolences to the bereaved families, the spokesman said.

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