Tamil Nadu

Helicopter Crash: IAF, Tamil Nadu police begin investigation

The helicopter, carrying Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 12 other defence personnel crashed on Wednesday. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Amid foggy weather conditions affecting visibility, investigators of the IAF and the Tamil Nadu police on Thursday flew drones at the site of the Mi-17V5 helicopter crash in Coonoor looking for evidence in the tragic incident.

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 defence personnel were killed in the crash on Wednesday afternoon.

According to police sources, IAF’s Accident Investigation Board officials earlier in the day visited the site for field investigation.

“Though we have registered a case and commenced inquiries with eyewitnesses and others, the IAF has the expertise to go into the technical aspects like aircraft forensics. They have the experience in probing in the past,” a senior police officer told The Hindu.

Firefighters of the Tamil Nadu Fire & Rescue Services assisted the investigating officials by cutting damaged trees and clearing debris. The crash site nestled in a valley was cordoned off by local police before the Army had stepped in.

“Visibility has been poor with intermittent mist in the area since afternoon on Thursday. Drones are being deployed for aerial visuals as and when the situation is improving. Crucial evidence like crash data recorders, flight data recorder etc were recovered from the site,” a forest official, who was part of the rescue operations, told The Hindu.

The VIP helicopter crashed in between two mountains in a tea estate located some 100 metres below the village, forest officials said adding that the local people were initially too scared to run down to extinguish the flames that had engulfed the helicopter.

The steep road leading to the village and the crash site in a narrow one-way lane are making it tough for rescue vehicles to operate with ease.

A senior police officer said the post-mortem went on till late on Wednesday night because some bodies were charred beyond recognition.

The officer said the Coonoor police Inspector was the first to visit the crash site and he alerted all other agencies. The work of the Tamil Nadu police in the swift rescue operation came in for appreciation by top defence officers who conveyed it to Chief Minister M.K. Stalin when he visited the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington.

Another senior police officer involved in the investigation said the weather conditions in the Nilgiris changed often affecting visibility and aircraft operations. There were several instances when helicopters carrying VVIPs from Coimbatore to Udhagamandalam returned to base owing to inclement weather conditions.

However, it is possible that the pilot of the ill-fated helicopter had visibility issues and flew at a lower altitude to stay below the clouds. “At times, it becomes difficult to judge the altitude while manoeuvring foggy weather conditions,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 4:04:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/helicopter-crash-iaf-begins-investigations-police-too-register-case-question-eye-witnesses/article37908385.ece

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