ONGC Chopper crash: Forensic experts hint at fuel leak

ONGC Chopper crash: Forensic experts hint at fuel leak

Metal fragments detected in bodies; experts suspect chopper’s rotor blades hit at least three on board.

The chopper wreckage and the bodies were found spread over a vast area.

FORENSIC analysts suspect that ONGC deputy general manager Pankaj Garg, one of the seven who died when a Pawan Hans helicopter crashed into the sea off the Mumbai coast on Saturday, had come in contact with hot fuel from the helicopter’s engine, leading to superficial to deep burns on 80 per cent of his body. A possible oil leak will now be probed after this information was handed over by forensic experts to the ONGC and Pawan Hans officials. In addition, metal fragments have been extracted from the body of Jose Antony. Forensic experts suspect the chopper’s rotor blades hit at least three officials on board the aircraft.

Despite suspicions of a mid-air explosion, forensic doctors said none of the bodies showed signs of burn injuries due to fire.  Garg’s body, mutilated like all the others, was recovered on Saturday afternoon near the debris of the helicopter. Doctors found his shirt, trousers, inner-wear and one of his socks intact. Though the clothes were not burnt, his skin underneath had charred, and experts now believe this is due to “hot fuel”. “Smell of fuel from his skin was distinct. We discussed it with ONGC officials. There is still no clarity on where Garg was sitting inside the chopper,” a doctor said. While Garg suffered 80 per cent burns due to “hot fuel”, the body of PN Sreenivasan showed 20-30 per cent similar burns.

Meanwhile, the body of Panchkula-based pilot VC Katoch was found on Monday and identified by his wife and daughters. Two finger rings — one with a coral and one of stainless steel — on his fingers helped identify him. “The body is partially decomposed and bloated. But it is mostly intact,” a forensic doctor said. The post mortem would be conducted by Monday night. Katoch, a former Army Aviation pilot, has worked with Pawan Hans for 11 years.

The chopper wreckage and the bodies were found spread over a vast area. Doctors conclude that those on board may have come in contact with the rotor blades of the helicopter and experienced sudden, extreme trauma. “At least three bodies show signs of being hit by blade. Such an injury cannot be caused by a crash alone,” a doctor said.


During the autopsy, metal fragments were found in Antony’s body as well. The metallic samples have been sent for further analysis to a laboratory. On Monday, doctors at Dr RN Cooper mortuary conducted an autopsy on “body parts” recovered by search teams on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the family of ONGC manager Bindu Lal Babu waits as search operations continue. Doctors at Cooper Hospital said another body had been earlier confused as Babu’s but actually was of pilot R Ohatkar. DNA tests will be conducted for further confirmation. “The skin type and anatomy matched that of Ohatkar,” a doctor said.

Ashwin Bhandare, a relative of Ohatkar, said, “Our family has not asked for a separate DNA test. Authorities told us the body part has been sent for DNA test. We have also been told by authorities that the black box has been recovered. We are waiting to know what transpired mid-air that led to the crash.”