JAMNAGAR (Gujarat): Two choppers of Indian Air force have collided here on Thursday, killing 9 people including 5 officers.
Television footage showed the helicopters flying almost parallel to each other before their upper rotors collided. While one of them went down immediately, the other went into a spin before ultimately crashing. Both aircraft caught fire in the impact.
“Nine IAF personnel ~ five officers and four other ranks ~ have been killed in the crash near Sarmat firing range, 15 km from Jamnagar city,” an IAF spokesperson said in New Delhi. The deceased include three Wing Commanders, a Squadron Leader and a Flight Lieutenant, he said. This is the fourth crash involving IAF aircraft this year but this is the first time that two of its helicopters have collided mid-air. Sixteen years ago, two passenger planes had collided in the air killing more than 300 people above Charkhi Dadri in Haryana.
The Russian-made choppers were on a training sortie and the crash took place about five minutes after they had taken off at 12 noon from the air base here. Asked why the choppers were flying so close to each other, the spokesperson said that the training mission involved such manoeuvre.
IAF and police officers as well as officials of the Jamnagar municipal corporation fire brigade reached the spot shortly after the crash. Fire brigade personnel doused the burning wreckage of the helicopters.
The spokesperson said that a court of inquiry has been ordered to determine the cause of the crash. Defence minister Mr AK Antony expressed deep sorrow at the tragedy and conveyed his condolences to the bereaved families.