Almost 48 hours after the Navy Dornier crashed into sea 25 miles off Goa coast, the body of Lt Kiran Shekhawat, the observer officer on-board, was located by divers in the wreckage. As of Thursday evening, her body was being taken to Goa, sources said. The second officer-sub-lieutenant Abhinav Nagori, however, remains missing.
“The body of Lt Kiran Shekhawat recovered from fuselage of aircraft. Being taken to Goa,” a Navy spokesperson said at 9 pm Thursday.
Married to Navy officer Vivek Chhoker in 2013, Shekhawat is the first lady officer of Navy to have died in a service aircraft crash.
Meanwhile, divers continued the search for the missing officer. As per protocol, the rescue operation will continue for “at least” seven days from the day of the incident. Search is also on for the aircraft’s black box which will help find what went wrong.
Meanwhile, Commander Nikhil Joshi, who was rescued by a fisherman after the crash, is stable and has gained “consciousness”, sources said.
Joshi, however, is unable to recollect what happened on that night after he sent the distress call at 10.02pm. Joshi, recuperating from head and back injuries at Patanjali naval hospital in Karwar, is a Qualified Flying Instructor with 4,000 hours of flying experience.
“It seems that since the officer is a qualified instructor who has conducted many search and rescue operations, he was able to follow Standard Operating Procedures even after being badly injured,” said a source. “In such a situation, the officer is required to wear life jacket, push the door and jump into the sea. This would have come naturally to Joshi owing to his experience. The other two who were relatively new might not have responded with such speed,” the source explained.
The fisherman of the trawler that rescued Joshi said: “We saw somebody swimming and pulled him into the boat…We then managed to get a toll free number of Navy and informed them.” The Navy suspect that co-pilot Nagori lost control of the aircraft and by the time the pilot could salvage the situation, the Dornier ditched into the waters. A Board of Inquiry has been constituted to ascertain the cause of the mishap.
A Navy source said: “As the incident happened late in the night, there was a seven-hour delay in commencing rescue operations…The first few hours are crucial in rescue operation which we lost”.
(with inputs from Rashmi Rajput)