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IAF officer was part of rescue mission during 2018 Kerala floods

🔴 During the 2018 Kerala floods, Pradeep was part of the IAF's rescue mission that air-lifted scores of people stranded across the state. He had also been part of the IAF rescue team during the 2013 Uttarakhand floods.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: December 9, 2021 8:07:13 pm
Pradeep was among the 13 who died when the helicopter carrying the CDS crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, Arakkal Pradeep, 37, called his mother at Puthur village in Kerala’s Thrissur district – a daily ritual since his father Radhakrishnan had been put on life support following a chronic disease.

That day, Pradeep, a Junior Warrant Officer with the Indian Air Force posted at the Sulur base near Coimbatore, had news for his mother Kumari. “He told her about the visit of Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat to Sulur. Pradeep said his name is on the tentative list of the staff who will accompany the CDS to Coonoor,” recalls Pradeep’s cousin Shivaprasad.

Pradeep was among the 13 who died when the helicopter carrying the CDS crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday. He is survived by his wife Sreelakshmi, seven-year-old son and two-year-old daughter, who lived with him at the IAF base in Sulur.

During the 2018 Kerala floods, Pradeep was part of the IAF’s rescue mission that air-lifted scores of people stranded across the state. He had also been part of the IAF rescue team during the 2013 Uttarakhand floods.

On Thursday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Opposition Leader V D Satheesan led Kerala in mourning the tragedy. “He was a courageous soldier who came forward to save people of his homeland during the floods,’’ said Vijayan in his condolence message.

Pradeep’s cousin said he was in Thrissur for two weeks to look after his father and had gone back to Sulur merely four days before the crash.

A portrait of IAF officer Arakkal Pradeep with his family.

“After the news of the helicopter crash reached the family, we tried to reach him on the phone. We were not sure if Pradeep was on board the chopper as he had said that he was on the tentative list,’’ said Shivaprasad.

In the afternoon, Pradeep’s younger brother Prasad, who works with a private firm in Thrissur, rushed to Sulur.

Late at night, as neighbours and friends started trickling into the family’s Arakkal home, Kumari resigned to the fact that she would never see her son again.

Shivaprasad said the family is yet to break the news of Pradeep’s death to his father Radhakrishnan, who is on ventilator support due to a chronic pulmonary disease. “We are worried about his health,’’ he said.

Radhakrishnan, an agricultural labourer, did occasional work at a local tile manufacturing firm before he fell ill.

Local panchayat member P S Sajith said the family “could stand on their feet” only because of Pradeep’s job. Eight years ago, the family got a new house built with financial support from Pradeep.

Pradeep joined the IAF in 2002 as a weapon fitter and later became part of the aircraft crew. In his 19 years of service in the IAF, he had worked in various parts of the country, including Kashmir and the Northeast.

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