Guwahati: At least seven defence personnel, including two army officers, were killed when a Russian made Mi-17 V5 helicopter of the Indian Air Force crashed on Friday morning near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
The defence spokesperson said that helicopter crashed around 6 am while it was on an air maintenance mission. A court of inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of crash, he added.
The deceased were identified as Wing Commander Vikram Upadhyay, Squadron Leader S Tiwari, MWO AK Singh, Sergeant Gautam and Sergeant Satish Kumar of the Air Force, and Sepoy E Balaji and Sepoy HN Deka of the Army.
The crash took place when it was flying at an altitude of 17,000 feet and the crew members were preparing to drop kerosene supply to one of the forward posts in the area.
Security sources said that while jerry cans of kerosene were being offloaded, the net holding the cans got entangled in the aircraft’s rear rotor. The chopper caught fire and crashed to the ground, killing all onboard. When the chopper caught fire, one of the crew members jumped out, but couldn’t survive, sources added.
The bodies of seven, including the pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and two army personnel, were found at the crash site at Yangchi, 130 km from Tawang town and close to the border with China.
The defence sources pointed out that senior pilots were flying the chopper – one was a wing commander and the other was a squadron leader.
The crash has also come as shock for the defence experts, who said that Mi-17V5, supplied to India, ranks among the most technically advanced helicopters of the Mi-8/17 type, incorporating the best engineering solutions of previous generations.
Designed to transport cargo inside the cabin, the Mi-17V5 is considered to be one of the world's most advanced military transport helicopters.
It is significant that over 150 such helicopters are in service and 48 more have been requisitioned. The Mi-17 can carry a substantial payload to higher altitudes. The defence spokesperson said that only the court of inquiry can ascertain actual cause of crash and refused confirm any lapses while dropping kerosene supply.