Helicopter missing from Northeast Indian Sky

By- Nava Thakuria | Date- May 02, 2011 | Place- Guwahati

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A helicopter carrying the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India has gone missing since Saturday morning following the bad weather and technical errors in the chopper. The chopper owned by Pawan Hans Helicopter Services Limited remains untraced for more than 24 hours since its departure from Tawang helipad. The Arunachal Pradesh officials claim that the chopper faced bad weather soon after its take off from the western part of the State and later crash-landed in neighbouring Bhutan.

Dorjee Khandu, the chief minister of the State was flying from Tawang to the State capital Itanagar just before 10 am on April 30 with two other passengers and two crew members. “The four others (excluding the chief minister Mr Khandu) on board includes security officer Yeshi Chodak, Yeshi Lamu, sister of Tawang MLA Tsewang Dhondup and crew members Captain J S Babbar & Captain K S Malick,” local newspaper reported. But even after a full day, no confirmed report of their where about was available. The Arunachal Parliamentarian Takam Sanjay admitted that ‘there is no confirmation or news about the helicopter and we have not been able to make direct contact with any of the five people on board’.

Three Indian Air Force helicopters were deployed for immediate rescue operation on Saturday in Tawang-Itanagar route. But bad weather prevented them to maintain their operation for long time. A team comprising personnel from the Army, SSB, ITB are scheduled to resume the operation on Sunday morning to locate the helicopter and its passengers. The crew members of the helicopter, which was scheduled to arrive in Itanagar by 11.30 in the morning, lost its radio communication after some time of taking off and for more than three hours there was no information about the helicopter. Then the Governor of the State Gen (retired) JJ Singh, while speaking to local media, claimed that the helicopter landed at Daporijo in Bhutan (adjacent to Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh) as a precautionary measure and all passengers were safe.

But the Bhutan authority denied the landing of any helicopter in that part of the country, bordering India and Tibet (China). The Trashiyangtse (of Bhutan) district magistrate S. Duba was ignored of any such incident and he clarified that they ‘don’t have any reports of an Indian helicopter landing’ in their territory.

Earlier the officials of Pawan Hans HS Ltd, which owns the helicopter (Eurocopter Ecureuil AS 350 B3), reiterated that their helicopter was a new one and it maintained the best possible technical condition. The Pawan Hans HS Ltd, which operates five helicopters in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura, now faces a probe against the Arunachal copper crash. Moreover its service is immediately taken into halt after massive protests from various organizations in the region.

Mentionable that the State witnessed a heartrending Pawan Hans chopper crash on April 19 that killed 17 people and injured 6 others. The injured passengers are recovering in Guwahati and New Delhi hospitals. The ill fated helicopter was flying from Guwahati to Tawang and crashed near the Tawang town. Mr Khandu, 56, took over the charge of chief ministership on April 09, 2007. He replaced Gegong Apang to become the fifth chief minister of the State. Meanwhile, the prime minister Manmohan Singh and the ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi called on the responsible officials at Itanagar to enquire about Mr Khandu and others.

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