Me and my team safe, Maharashtra CM tweets after crash

Mr Fadnavis had gone to Latur in Marathwada region for the BJP's Shivar Samwad Sabha,' a state-wide campaign to reach out to farmers.

Update: 2017-05-25 20:48 GMT
Police officials stand by the wreckage of the Sikorsky VT-CMM helicopter, carrying Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and his team, that crashed-landed following a technical snag shortly after take-off at Nilanga in Latur. (Photo: PTI)

Mumbai: In a second such incident in the last 15 days, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ helicopter, a Sikorsky (VT-CMM), met with an accident in Latur on Thursday afternoon. Mr Fadnavis and other officials who were travelling with him escaped safely. The helicopter detected variable wind pattern after taking off from Latur and the pilot decided to land back on the temporary helipad. However, during landing the rotor blades of the helicopter got entangled in electric cables near the helipad. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will conduct a probe into the accident. Earlier, Mr Fadnavis’ helicopter at Gadchiroli had faced a technical snag mid-air on May 12 and he had to land back then.

The accident occurred when Mr Fadnavis boarded the helicopter at Nilanga town along with his three staff members and two crewmembers. The helicopter, which is government-owned, was surrounded by a huge crowd and the accident was recorded on mobile phones by people present at the venue. The visuals show Mr Fadnavis’ helicopter taking off and after reaching a certain height, landing back dramatically. Sources in the aviation industry said the incident was serious and Mr Fadnavis was fortunate.

“Our helicopter did meet with an accident in Latur but me and my team is absolutely safe and ok. Nothing to worry,” Mr Fadnavis tweeted after the accident. Later, speaking with the media, he said, “I am safe and it was a small incident. I am not injured. After take off, pressure was created. We realised that something was wrong and while landing back the helicopter got entangled with electricity wires.”

DGCA sources said an  team would conduct a detailed probe of the accident. “Cockpit voice recorder will be checked. The team will visit the site and the helicopter. The flight data will be obtained and analysed. It will give information about what happened to the engine, communication between the pilots, in what situation the incident took place. There could be two possibilities, either technical error or the pilot’s mistake,” an official said.

The official also said that the six-year-old Sikorsky helicopter was damaged beyond repair. Earlier, the CM’s helicopter at Gadchiroli had faced technical snag mid-air and he had to travel by road.

Eyewitnesses of the incident said a few onlookers sustained minor injuries in the accident. Electricity wires snapped, a pole collapsed and the helicopter even touched a truck that was nearby and a house, they said. The helicopter, in the process of landing back, could not reach to its original position from where it took off, eyewitnesses said.

Captain Sanjay Karve, director general of Maharashtra Civil Aviation, who was flying the helicopter, narrated the accident. “After take off, we felt air pressure. So, we tried to fly high but got entangled in the electric wires,” Mr Karve said.  

Mr Fadnavis had gone to Latur in Marathwada region for the BJP’s ‘Shivar Samwad Sabha,’ a state-wide campaign to reach out to farmers.

Ketan Pathak, Mr Fadnavis’ media advisor, suffered minor injuries in the incident. Others aboard the helicopter included senior IAS officer and Mr Fadnavis’ personal secretary Praveen Pardeshi and the CM’s personal assistant Abhimanyu Pawar.

Maharashtra governor C. Vidyasagar Rao telephoned Mr Fadnavis from Chennai and enquired about his well-being. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray also called the CM.


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