Sixty hours after they were first reported as “parachutes” by a pilot, causing a security scare, the Mumbai Police arrested two men, clearing the mystery surrounding the unidentified objects afloat in the airspace over Mumbai airport.
Investigations have found that they were helium balloons that were promotional merchandise to mark a cricket tournament organised by diamond trading firm, Dharmanandan Diamonds Private Limited. The Surat-based firm was last in the news after it won in an auction the personalised pinstriped suit that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wore during US President Barack Obama’s visit to India.
Soon after the arrests Tuesday, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) shot off a letter to the Mumbai International Airport Private Limited to pursue a criminal case against the organisers.
“Had the 3-4 feet large advertising balloons gone inside the engine, when the aircraft was at ‘approach level’, it would have caused major complications,” said an official.
The airport police arrested event organisers Kunal Shah and Nilesh Shrimankar under sections 188 (for disobedience to order promulgated by public servant) and 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the Indian Penal Code. The two were later released on bail.
The company had Saturday organised a private cricket tournament in Kalina, near the Mumbai airport. Hitesh Patel, managing director of the firm, said he got suspicious after reading media reports on spotting ‘parachutes’, and rang up his office in Mumbai Monday. He claimed that he asked the office to share with police pictures of the balloons released by them on Saturday. The company’s representative then visited the local police station with the pictures. After corroborating the sequence of events, the police slapped a case against the organisers, said Patel.
The Mumbai police, however, claimed that one of the raiding teams learnt about a cricket tournament and after going through the pictures shared by the organisers, concluded that the ‘parachutes’ were actually helium balloons.