“THE family was hoping for his return and they did not believe he was no more with us,” said one of the colleagues of Captain Vijay Katoch, who died when the Pawan Hans helicopter crashed into the sea off the Mumbai coast Saturday. After his body was found Monday, the family performed the last rites at the Vile Parle crematorium Tuesday afternoon. Katoch, 54, had been worked with Pawan Hans since 2007 and lived in the residential colony for staffers in Santacruz, while his family is based in Panchkula near Chandigarh. He is survived by his wife Poonam and two daughters Ambika and Aanchal.
Katoch’s body was identified with the help of the two rings — one with a coral stone and the other a stainless steel one — he wore on his fingers. The body, sixth to be identified since the crash, was found floating in water Monday.
According to doctors, his wife identified the body at the Dr R N Cooper Hospital’s mortuary Monday. The autopsy report cites multiple trauma injuries and haemorrhagia as the cause of his death. Katoch had earlier worked with the Army Aviation Corps, having joined the Army in 1985 after graduating from the National Defence Academy, and quit as Lieutenant Colonel. “Both he and Captain (Ramesh) Ohatkar were experienced pilots,” said a Pawan Hans official. Ohatkar and Katoch were the two pilots flying five senior ONGC officials when the chopper crashed on January 13.
“He always had a smile on his face. He would face each difficulties and problems that came his way in a calm manner. He was a gentleman,” recalled one of his former Army colleagues.
Neighbours said his wife and two daughters, who arrived in Mumbai on Sunday, had been hopeful of finding him alive. “They kept saying let’s pray he is found safe,” said Pawan Hans staffer Afroz Dalvi. She said Katoch mostly kept to himself and very few staffers in the Pawan Hans Colony knew him.
“May God be with his soul. I am thankful to everyone who gathered at the mortuary. I want to thank everyone for extending your love to Vijay. He used to love Pawan Hans. We all would miss him,” said a teary eyed Poonam.
Senior officials of Pawan Hans said financial compensation would be provided to the families of both deceased pilots. “Each of the machines in use in the organisation is certified by a trusted third party person. Pawan Hans has been in the industry since 30 years and we run a mass fleet of aircraft across the country. We have done audits and will continue to screen the aircraft and machines in use to ensure safety,” said B P Sharma, Chairperson and Managing Director, Pawan Hans.
The body of one of the five ONGC deputy general managers, V K Bindu Lal Babu, is yet to be recovered. His family has given DNA samples to facilitate the process of DNA tests of certain body parts found in the debris.