ONGC Chopper Crash: 6 Bodies Recovered, AAIB to Investigate Crash
Coast Guard carries out search and rescue ops at the chopper crash site.
Coast Guard carries out search and rescue ops at the chopper crash site.(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/DefenceMinIndia

ONGC Chopper Crash: 6 Bodies Recovered, AAIB to Investigate Crash

The Indian Coast Guard have recovered six bodies after locating the debris of the Pawan Hans chopper that went missing around 10:40 am on Saturday, 13 January. The chopper was carrying five ONGC employees and two pilots when it went missing off the Mumbai coast.

The police informed that the bodies have been brought to Cooper Hospital for postmortem.

Out of the six recovered bodies, five have been identified. The search for one missing is still underway.
Senior Police Inspector 

The five ONGC officers – all deputy general managers – have been identified as R Saravanan, VK Babu, Jose Anthony, Pankaj Garg and P N Sreenivasan.

‘Lost Contact after 10:35 am’

The helicopter took off from Juhu airport at around 10:20 am and was supposed to land at an oil rig in Bombay High. However, the oil rig air traffic control lost contact with the chopper after 10:35 am.

Search and rescue operations being conducted at the spot where the chopper’s debris was found.
Search and rescue operations being conducted at the spot where the chopper’s debris was found.
(Photo Courtesy: Coast Guard)

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has been assigned with the task of investigating the crash. The three-member committee from AAIB has been appointed to look into the matter of the crash of a Pawan Hans chopper carrying five senior ONGC officers and two Pawan Hans pilots on Saturday. Investigations held by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) previously has collected evidence from the wreckage. On Sunday, the Indian Coast Guard officials confirmed that the cockpit voice recorder known as the black box was also traced, The Indian express reported.

“AAIB is investigating as per investigation rules 2017. The investigator in charge will be assisted by two members,” The Indian Express Quoted AAIB chief B S Rai as saying. R Passi, Deputy Director of the AAIB will be heading the investigations. “No official cause of the crash can be stated as of now. We will study the evidence from the black box and then ascertain the cause of the accident,” a senior AAIB official said.

A senior DGCA official told The Indian Express that the AAIB team would compile a report. 

The helicopter was 30 nautical miles off the Mumbai coast at the time of its last contact with the air traffic control.

ONGC officials estimate that the chopper would have been at a height of about 3,000 feet at the time of the crash. “This is the usual height at which the chopper flies. It was on an auto-pilot mode for better assistance to the pilot flying off shore. Unless the information received from the black box is decoded, it would be difficult to know what was exactly spoken with the helibase team of ONGC,” a senior official, talking to The Indian Express.

The Chopper’s debris being pulled out of water.
The Chopper’s debris being pulled out of water.
(Photo Courtesy: Coast Guard)

Rescue Ops

After being alerted by the ONGC, four Indian Navy ships including water jet fast attack craft INS Tarasa, a Boeing P8i and a Seaking helicopter joined the search operations, while the Coast Guard deployed five ships and two Dornier aircraft and two helicopters to the crash region for the search and rescue operation.

INS Makar, a special hydrographic ship, left Karwar to augment the search for a sunken wreck.

The entire search operations are being closely monitored by the ONGC. According to an Indian Express report, the ONGC and Coast Guard vessels CG-268, CG-241, CG-314, Suriya-3, and CG-769, Samudra Sevak, HAL Anant, TAG-20, TAG 17, TAG-15, OSVs LJ Johnson and BS Negi and Ocean Crewser-III combed the shore on Sunday.

Debris and bodies being recovered from the crash site.
Debris and bodies being recovered from the crash site.
(Photo Courtesy: Coast Guard)
As the extensive search operations have been underway, one pilot, VC Katoch is yet to be found. The AAIB team has collected all the evidence on the chopper, the Indian Express further reported.

ONGC Statement

“Following an extensive search operation, jointly conducted by ONGC, the Coast Guard and the Indian Navy, six bodies including one of the two pilots have so far been recovered. The search is on for one more person who is still missing,” said the official statement from ONGC, as procured by the Indian Express.

Bodies of ONGC officials P N Sreenivasan, R Saravanan, Jose Antony, Pankaj Garg and one of the pilots Captain R Ohatkar have been identified. The identification process for the sixth body is still on. During the Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations on January 14, 2018 the voice data recorder (VDR) of the chopper has been recovered. Search operation is on for the remaining debris of the production chopper VT – PWA.
Official ONGC Statement

“The recovered bodies of ONGC executives, after necessary procedures, have been handed over to the family members and two families have taken the bodies to their native places for last rites as desired by the family. ONGC is extending all possible help to the bereaved families in this hour of grief and crisis,” added the ONGC statement.

(With inputs from news agencies and the Indian Express)

(This is a developing story and will be updated)

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