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‘After the 4 who were rescued alive, there was no sign of life’: Eyewitnesses recount Coonoor chopper crash

🔴 The locals, including tea plantation and MGNREGA workers along with local residents were first to respond and helped the officials bring out the bodies from the shola forest.

Written by Nithya Pandian | Chennai |
Updated: December 8, 2021 10:58:31 pm
Rescue officals at the spot where an IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter crashed in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. (PTI)

Hours after a chopper carrying Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and 13 others crashed Wednesday in Nanjappa Chathiram in Tamil Nadu’s Coonoor, eyewitnesses of the incident recounted how an otherwise normal day turned tragic in no time.

Vennila, a local Anganwadi worker, said she was serving meals to the children at the centre like other days when the incident took place. “It was around 12 and I was serving meals to the children. The sound of the chopper, when it flew above the Anganwadi centre, enthused the kids, but in no time, there was a loud noise and none of us thought it would turn into a deadly accident.”

She added, “The children who were playing on the ground saw the helicopter crash. They rushed to the residential area and informed the others about it and later, we dialed the 108 ambulance services for help.”

Rescue operation near the wreckage of the crashed IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter, in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. (PTI)

“The fire service department was already there when I reached the spot after sending the kids home. Four persons, who were the first to be evacuated, were alive and sent to the hospital but there was no sign of life after that,” Vennila said.

An employee of Katteri Park, a tourist destination, said, “It was foggy since the morning. When I reached the spot, I saw three people jumping out of the helicopter but they were severely injured. The condition of the rest of the people cannot be expressed. I felt very bad for them. The tree the helicopter hit broke into pieces. They might have survived the crash if the helicopter had not burst into flames. Everything was charred in no time.”

According to information, after crossing Burliyar village, the chopper hit the tree and crash-landed between a tea estate and a shola forest near Katteri Park, which is 10 km away from the Wellington helipad, the helicopter’s destination. The locals, including tea plantation and MGNREGA workers along with residents, were first to respond and helped the officials bring out the bodies from the shola forest.

People try to contain the fire after an IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter crashed in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. (AP)

Jay Shankar, a local resident, said, “I was in my house when the helicopter crashed. Within 10 minutes, the police, fire department officials and ambulances reached the spot. We live barely a few metres away from the spot and I consider ourselves to be lucky. If the crash had happened in the residential area, it would’ve been a disaster. Along with other officials, locals helped in the rescue operation.”

However, not all families were lucky. Shankar added, “The crash damaged the kitchen of the last house in the residential area. There are more than 40 houses here and all of them have LPG connections. If the helicopter had crashed on any of the houses, I cannot imagine what would have been the scenario. We consider ourselves to be lucky although we couldn’t save a single person from the crash.”

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin reached Nilgiris and expressed his condolences.

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