The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has written to aviation security regulator BCAS to look into a sabotage angle in the Pawan Hans chopper crash that killed all the seven on board last Saturday. The Eurocopter Dauphin N3 chopper with seven on board, including five senior ONGC officials and two pilots, crashed off the Mumbai coast minutes after it took off from the Juhu aerodrome for the state-owned oil and gas major’s installations in the Bombay High fields on January 13.
“We don’t want any angle in the crash to be left uncovered. While we are investigating the technical aspects of the crash, we also want the sabotage angle to be probed,” a top AAIB official told PTI on condition of anonymity on Thursday. “Therefore, we’ve written to the BCAS (Bureau of Civil Aviation Security) director general seeking a separate probe whether there is any sabotage, along with our ongoing investigation,” the official said.
The AAIB, the apex accident probe body under the civil aviation ministry, has a mandate to investigate accidents and serious incidents involving aircraft. It began the probe soon after the Pawan Hans chopper crash was confirmed. On the other hand, the BCAS is the country’s nodal aviation security body and would mainly look at whether security was compromised, leading to a possible sabotage.
The official also said AAIB chief Bir Singh Rai has also spoken to his BCAS counterpart Kumar Rajesh Chandra on the issue. The Bombay High operated by the national energy major ONGC is the largest oil and gas fields in the country and Pawan Hans helicopters routinely ferry ONGC employees and officers to these oil installations that are situated 160 km from the city coastline.
Pawan Hans is a 51:49 joint venture between the central government and ONGC. ONGC, Coast Guard and the Navy launched a massive joint search and rescue operations with helicopters and speedboats shortly after receiving the information about the chopper going down. After three days of searches, all the seven bodies and the technically crucial voice data recorder of the helicopter were recovered.
The ONGC officials killed in the crash are P N Srinivasan, R Saravanan, V K Babu, Jose Antony and Pankaj Garg (all deputy general managers); while the pilots were Ramesh Ohatkar and V C Katoch.