For Anuradha Wade (44) and her son Swarang (13), 15 minutes made the difference between life and death. The Wades had booked the 11:46 am slot for a chopper joyride on December 11, but Anuradha changed her mind and took the 11:30 am slot instead. As they alighted, they saw the next passengers — Ritesh and Vrinda Modi — waiting to board. Around 10 minutes later, the chopper would come crashing down, killing Ritesh and the pilot Prafulla Mishra.
“We took the 15-minute ride at 11.30 am, to the northern tourists points of Mumbai. It was just minutes before the second ride, which crashed. The difference between our landing and their take-off was also a matter of a minute,” said Anuradha Wade, a clerk in the planning department of Mantralaya.
Their joyride was meant to be an early celebration for Swarang’s birthday on December 13. “The joyride was a gift for Swarang’s birthday, which was on Tuesday. We celebrated it on Sunday as it was a holiday for both of us. My son had wanted to go on the ride for a long time and I planned it as a surprise for him. He did not know about it till we reached the airport,” Anuradha said.
A relative of Anuradha, Ashok Pisal (57), booked the ride as a gift. “I wanted to surprise Swarang, who had been demanding to sit in a chopper for quite a long time. When I was booking the ride for them last month, I had initially filled the second trip slot. However, Anuradha insisted on the first ride as she had plans for the later half of the day,” Pisal said.
“As it was a long weekend, I wanted to go to other places with my son. So I asked Ashok to book the first ride. When I heard the chopper crashed later, I could not believe it,” she said.
The ride — from sitting in a chopper for the first time to taking an aerial view of the city — was a great experience for the duo, they claim.
“When our ride began, we were greeted by the pilot Mishra. My son was so happy as he excitedly took in every spot the pilot pointed out to us over the headphone. It was a very comfortable ride. Mishra also wished Swarang a happy birthday,” Anuradha said. When their ride was over, they saw the Modi couple ready to board. “I could sense from their body language that they were excited. They could not wait for us to unfasten our seat belts. They looked so happy,” Anuradha added.