AAIB begins inquiry into chopper crash

Mangled: The wreckage of the chopper recovered during the Indian Coast Guard’s search operation.

Mangled: The wreckage of the chopper recovered during the Indian Coast Guard’s search operation.  


Body of seventh person on board Pawan Hans helicopter found; officials call for maintenance records to compare with parts recovered

Mumbai: The Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) has begun its probe into Saturday’s accident, when a Pawan Hans helicopter crashed into the Arabian Sea with seven people on board, during a routine sortie for the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).

On Monday, a two-member team consisting of deputy director R.S. Passi and air safety officer Shilpi Satiya visited the Juhu and Mumbai airports where the Air Traffic Control tapes and some radar data were retrieved.

Pawan Hans officials said that the discovery of cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder will help in the investigation. “There should be no speculation or premature conclusions drawn. The AAIB is on the job,” Sanjay Kumar, general manager (west), Pawan Hans, said.

Officials said the fact that the Dauphin N2 helicopter was flying for the first time after a periodic maintenance overhaul on January 6, where parts were removed and refitted, is also under scrutiny. Since it was undertaken by the Pawan Hans engineering team, the investigators have called for maintenance records, which will be compared with the parts recovered.

Based on the wreckage, officials said the disintegration of the chopper seemed to have occurred on impact with the sea. “From whatever of the helicopter has been recovered, it appears to have been a steep angle crash impact. The landing gear is up and extended floats are not seen. The life jacket was also not inflated,” a senior Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official said.

An initial assessment by the investigators found out that the rotor blade appeared to have cut through the fuselage of the helicopter, thus explaining the mutilated bodies and shattered cabin. This is believed to have happened when the blades struck water and bent on impact while still rotating.

Body recovered

Indian Coast Guard (ICG) spokesperson, Commandant Varun Agastya, said efforts to locate missing passengers continued on the third day with ICG ships and aircraft carrying out a search in coordination with the ONGC and Naval vessels.

ICG ship Samrat, which is the on-scene commander, confirmed recovery of another body on Monday. The body was identified as that of the last missing person on board, pilot V.C. Katoch.

The ship also intimated recovery of aircraft parts such as rotor blades, main gear box, tail gear box, both engines, and emergency locator transmitter by ONGC vessel Samudra Sevak.

ICG’s Dornier aircraft, flying from Daman, also continued to scan the area. “The ICG is maintaining a high-level coordination with the ONGC, and the ICG ships and aircraft based in Mumbai and Daman are being deployed at the crash location,” Mr. Agastya said.

A delegation from the ONGC and Pawan Hans visited the headquarters, Coast Guard Region (West), on Monday to assess the situation. The ICG has assured support to the ONGC. Also, search area is being worked out between various agencies to cover maximum area in shortest possible time.

Confusion over bodies

The ICG said its ships recovered six bodies on January 13, of which some were in disintegrated state, and those were handed over to the ONGC. “However, because of the condition of the bodies we could not confirm whether they belonged to five persons or six. A late night release from Nanavati Hospital said they have bodies belonging to six persons. This may be because some body parts of the sixth person could be part of bodies we handed over to the ONGC on January 13. On Monday, another body was recovered where the ONGC vessel was undertaking diving. We are searching the area to find the remaining body parts,” the ICG spokesperson said.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 8:42:44 PM |

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