His French-beard and a mole on his body were the only identification marks that helped family and friends identify pilot Ramesh Ohatkar, one of the two pilots on board the ill-fated Pawan Hans helicopter that crashed off the Mumbai coast Saturday morning. As she waited at the Dr RN Cooper Hospital mortuary, wife Dr Vidya Ohatkar gently asked Pawan Hans officials if her husband’s phone, wallet or any other belongings could be recovered. “We’re trying, madam,” was all an official could respond.
The impact of the chopper crashing into the sea led to the bodies being mutilated. The chopper carried five ONGC officials and two pilots. While six bodies have been recovered, search for the remaining body continued Sunday.
Ohatkar was the seniormost pilot with Pawan Hans with over 14,000 flying hours to his credit. He was due to retire in two years. He had worked for almost 28 years as a pilot. A Pawan Hans official said, “He was one of our most experienced pilots. He helped save lives of several ONGC officials in the past. I remember in the 2005 fire at Bombay High, he helped rescue officials. This crash just shows tragedy can befall anyone anytime.”
Ohatkar, a native of Hyderabad, is survived by his wife and daughter Srishti, who lives in Pune and is completing her post-graduation. On Sunday afternoon, when she arrived to light the funeral pyre of her father, she kept asking, “Is it possible that the body belongs to someone else?”
Ashwin, a relative, said Ohatkar planned to shift to Pune after two years, post retirement. “He was meticulous in his job. He would never answer calls while working,” he said. Ohatkar has two sisters and a brother. While his one sister was able to attend the funeral, the other sister, IPS officer Shobha Ohatkar, is in Malaysia and is expected to arrive Monday.
In the Pawan Hans colony in Santacruz, Ohatkar’s neighbour Afroz Dalvi said he would often feed biscuits to stray dogs and pat them while passing by. “Ohatkar sir was a gem of a person. The dogs would chase his car as soon as he would enter the colony.”
According to forensic doctors, Ohatkar succumbed to trauma injuries and haemorrhagic shock. “He was easy to talk to. Everyone in the residential colony knew him well,” said another pilot, who did not wish to be named. Another Pawan Hans official said he had met Ohatkar Saturday morning before he took off. “It was a routine exercise for him — to fly us. I had travelled so many times with him in the chopper,” he said.