Hours after its Dornier aircraft disappeared from the radar 25 nautical miles off the coast of Goa, the Navy deployed 12 search and rescue ships and four aircraft to look for two missing personnel, including a young woman lieutenant. The captain of the aircraft, Commander Nikhil Joshi, who was spotted by a fisherman an hour after the crash, was admitted to a naval hospital in Karwar. Navy chief Admiral R K Dhowan visited Joshi and Navy officials said he is “unconscious but stable”.
The Dornier, Do-228, belonging to the Indian Navy Aviation Squadron 310, took off from INS Hansa in Goa at 6.30 pm on Tuesday evening on a training mission. It lost contact at 10.08 pm, 25 nautical miles off Goa coast. Commander Joshi, the in charge of the aircraft, has 4,000 hours of flying experience.
While there was no distress call from the aircraft, Joshi was sighted by a fisherman “an hour after the accident” and “picked up by a fishing boat, Niharika”, a Navy press release said. He was then transferred to the Naval Fast Interceptor Craft. Till Wednesday evening, the two other officers, a co-pilot and a woman observer officer, were missing. Officials said the officers “had worn life jackets before boarding the aircraft”.
Navy officials said the families of the missing personnel had been informed and the search would continue over the next few days. Sources said that with each passing hour, the area of search was being widened and as of Wednesday evening, the search area was close to 20,000 square kilometers.
This is the first ever accident involving a Dornier wherein the “aircraft has been lost”. Acquired in late 1990s from the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), 36 Dornier aircraft are operated by the Navy. The Navy has constituted a fact-finding committee to ascertain the cause of the incident.