A three-member committee of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) will investigate the crash of a Pawan Hans chopper carrying five senior ONGC officers and two Pawan Hans pilots Saturday. Officials from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) confirmed that they investigated the site and collected evidence from the wreckage. On Sunday, the cockpit voice recorder or the black box was traced too, said officials from the Indian Coast Guard. Six bodies had been found by Sunday evening.
“Following an extensive search operation, jointly conducted by ONGC, the Coast Guard and the Indian Navy, six bodies including one of the two pilots have so far been recovered. The search is on for one more person who is still missing,” said an official statement from the ONGC. Pilot V C Katoch is yet to be found. The AAIB team collected documents pertaining to the chopper, its fitness test and also parts of the wreckage, including the black box.
“AAIB is investigating as per investigation rules 2017. The investigator in charge will be assisted by two members,” said AAIB chief B S Rai. The investigation is being headed by R Passi, Deputy Director, AAIB. “No official cause of the crash can be stated as of now. We will study the evidence from the black box and then ascertain the cause of the accident,” said a senior AAIB official.
Officials from the ONGC claimed that the chopper would have fallen from a height of at least 3,000 feet. Black box found, AAIB panel to study evidence “This is the usual height at which the chopper flies. It was on an auto pilot mode for better assistance to the pilot flying off shore. Unless the information received from the black box is decoded, it would be difficult to know what was exactly spoken with the helibase team of ONGC,” said a senior official.
“Bodies of ONGC officials P N Sreenivasan, R Saravanan, Jose Antony, Pankaj Garg and one of the pilots Captain R Ohatkar have been identified. The identification process for the sixth body is still on. During the Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations on January 14, 2018 the voice data recorder (VDR) of the chopper has been recovered. Search operation is on for the remaining debris of the production chopper VT – PWA,” said the official statement. A senior DGCA official said the AAIB team would compile a report.
ONGC and Coast Guard vessels CG-268, CG-241, CG-314, Suriya-3, and CG-769, Samudra Sevak, HAL Anant, TAG-20, TAG 17, TAG-15, OSVs LJ Johnson and BS Negi and Ocean Crewser-III combed the shore Sunday. The search operation is being monitored by the ONGC top management led by CMD ONGC Shashi Shanker.
Shanker said, “A high level independent investigation will be immediately instituted to ascertain the reasons (for the crash).”
“The recovered bodies of ONGC executives, after necessary procedures, have been handed over to the family members and two families have taken the bodies to their native places for last rites as desired by the family. ONGC is extending all possible help to the bereaved families in this hour of grief and crisis,” added the ONGC statement.