The Coast Guard has traced the Aircraft Voice Data Recorder (black box) of the Pawan Hans helicopter which crashed off the Mumbai coast on January 13 while the recovery of the remaining debris is in progress. Simultaneously, the Navy has widened its search operations for the two missing crew members of the chopper. “Search for the missing ONGC crew continues till recovery. Aircraft Voice Data Recorder (VDR) has been recovered and recovery of balance debris is in progress,” a Coast Guard spokesperson said on January 14.
The helicopter with seven people on-board, including five ONGC officers and two pilots, crashed off Mumbai minutes after it took off for the state-owned company’s oil installation in the Arabian sea on January 13.
A Navy spokesperson said on January 14 that the two Fast Interceptor Craft, INS Tarasa and the frigate INS Teg, were coordinating the search in the area along with Indian Coast Guard (ICG) Ships Samudra Prahari, Achook and Agrim.
The INS Makar (a twin hulled catamaran hydrography ship) from Karwar was also en route to area to augment search efforts, he said.
The ICGS Samrat also sailed out from Mumbai to join the search and rescue operations, he said.
Besides, ICG Dornier from Daman, IN Seaking 42 B from Shikra (helibase) and nine ONGC Vessels were also deployed for search in the area, he said.
The ONGC vessel TAG 15 undertaking side scan sonar operations has found some debris 600 yards from the wreckage position, the spokesperson said.
The diving team from Samudra Sevak vessel is preparing to undertake the search while the team from INS Teg is kept on standby, he said.
The Pawan Hans helicopter with five Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) officers, including three of the level of Deputy General Managers, went missing around 10.40 a.m. on January 13.
ONGC, Coast Guard and Navy pressed helicopters and speed boats as soon as the information of the chopper going missing was received at the Juhu helibase.
ONGC has key oil and gas fields off Mumbai and Pawan Hans helicopters routinely ferry company employees and officers to the oil installations that are located as far as 160 km from the coastline.
The field in the offshore include Mumbai High, the nation’s largest oil field and Bassein fields, the largest gas field.
The helicopter crash is not the first accident in ONGC’s history. In August 2003, an Mi-172 helicopter crashed off the Mumbai coast killing 27 people and pilot on-board.
Pawan Hans said in a statement that the French-made Dauphin SA 365N3 helicopter met with an accident and the chopper crash is being probed by the aviation regulation DGCA.