Seven people, including the pilot, died after a helicopter ferrying pilgrims back from Kedarnath shrine crashed midway, before reaching the base station, near Garud Chatti on October 18.
A team of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) will be probing the helicopter crash near Kedarnath in Uttarakhand that killed seven pilgrims on Tuesday, according to a senior official.
It is an accident as per the classification of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and AAIB will be probing the case, the official added.
The chopper belonged to Aryan aviation company and is said to have crashed due to the bad weather, however detailed investigation into the cause of the accident is going on, says Uttarakhand Civil Aviation Development Authority (UCADA) CEO C. Ravi Shankar.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has also ordered a separate probe in the helicopter crash that was condoled by the Prime Minister, the President and Chief Minister Of Uttarakhand among many others. Those who died include Anil Singh, the 58-year-old pilot, and three pilgrims each from Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.
According to the State government officials, the incident took place between Lincholi and Garud Chatti minutes after the helicopter took off from the helipad built at Kedarnath shrine. The rescue teams were immediately rushed to the spot. The helicopter was Bell-407 VT-RPN owned by Aryan aviation.
“Due to fog, there was less visibility and the helicopter crashed after colliding with a hill,” said C. Ravishankar
Among the pilgrims who died are Poorva Ramanuj (26), Kruti Barad (30) and Urvi Barad (25) from Gujarat. The Gujarat government announced financial assistance of ₹4 lakh to the kin of each of the three deceased women.
“The families of the deceased from Bhavnagar will be given Rs 4 lakh assistance. The decision has been taken by Chief Minister Shri @Bhupendrabjp ji and the state government for which I thank them,” Gujarat Education Minister Jitu Vagahani tweeted.
He said the government is constantly in touch with the Uttarakhand government to bring the bodies of the victims to Gujarat.
Three pilgrims from Tamil Nadu who died in the accident were Prem Kumar (63), Sujata (56) and Kala (60).
As many as 9 private chopper services are operational to ferry pilgrims to Kedarnath from various bases built in Guptkashi, Phata and Sirsi areas in Rudraprayag district. This year, 1.35 lakh pilgrims have taken helicopter services to Kedarnath since the start of the Yatra in May 2022.
Sonu Bisht, an eyewitness, who also informed the disaster control room about the accident, told The Hindu that the chopper took off even when there was poor viability in the valley due to dense fog.
“The helicopters ferry people even when the weather is bad. They play with the lives of people,” said Mr. Bisht who is the husband of the Zila Panchyat Member from Parkandiwal.
The chopper of Aryan Aviation Pvt Ltd hit a hillock amid dense fog and crashed within seconds after taking off near Garurchatti which is barely two km from Kedarnath, Manohar Singh, a security man deployed at Kedarnath helipad, told PTI.
The district administration, Rudraprayag, claimed that the helicopter services remained suspended after the accident and due to bad weather on Tuesday.
“Anguished by the helicopter crash in Uttarakhand. In this tragic hour, my thoughts are with the bereaved families,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
President Droupadi Murmu also condoled the death of pilgrims and the pilot in a helicopter crash near Kedarnath Dham in Uttarakhand.
My deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones, she said. “The news of the death of many pilgrims, including the pilot, in the helicopter crash near Kedarnath Dham is very sad. My deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones,” Ms. Murmu tweeted in Hindi.
“The helicopter crash in Kedarnath is extremely unfortunate. We are in touch with the State government to ascertain the magnitude of the loss, and are constantly monitoring the situation.” said Jyotiraditya Scindia, Union Minister for Civil Aviation.
(With inputs from PTI)