Seven persons, including two officers, died after an Indian Air Force helicopter crashed in a field and burst into flames in Sitapur district of Uttar Pradesh.
The Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv, which was on its way from Bareilly to Allahabad, crashed in a field at Pandit Purwa village shortly before 5 pm, an hour after take-off.
Bareilly is home to the Snow Tigers, the 111 Helicopter Unit. The station received 10 ALHs, the first batch of the Dhruv Mk-III, in February 2012.
The flight data recorder has been found and the IAF has ordered a court of inquiry to determine the cause of the crash. Rescue teams recovered the bodies from the crash site.
The IAF withheld the names of the dead since the kin have to be notified first. But it is learnt that among the dead are a wing commander and a squadron leader. Officials said the pilot gave a may-day call.
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“One Advanced Light Helicopter crashed near Sitapur of Lucknow area at 1657 hours. The helicopter was airborne from Bareilly at 1553 hours and was on a mission to Allahabad. The pilot gave a may-day call and soon after that there was loss of contact on radar and radio. A total of seven air warriors, including two pilots, were on board. It is feared that there are no survivors. There is no reported damage on ground,” the IAF said in a statement in New Delhi.
Sitapur district magistrate J P Singh said he received a phone call at 5 pm, alerting him that the air traffic control had lost contact with an IAF helicopter. Shortly thereafter, he received a call from a person in the village who told him that a helicopter had crashed.
In Pandit Purwa, teacher Nand Kishore said he saw a helicopter “spinning, falling to the ground” before bursting into flames. People working in the fields ran to the spot and alerted officials.
The Mk-III variant of the ALH is a light, multi-role, multi-mission helicopter. Manufactured by HAL, this was an improvement on the earlier variants with a more powerful Shakti engine and an integrated electronic warfare suite. The ALH performed very well in Op Rahat during the Uttarakhand flash floods last year.
In October 2009, a Dhruv sold to Ecuador earlier that year crashed at the military day parade of the country, seriously injuring two pilots. It was one of the seven ALHs that Ecuador had acquired.