9 killed as IAF copters collide

9 killed as IAF copters collide

9 killed as IAF copters collide

Ahmedabad/New Delhi: Nine Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel were killed when two Mi-17 helicopters collided mid-air over Sarmat village, about 10 km from Jamnagar in Gujarat.

Three wing commanders, two squadron leaders, one flight lieutenant and four airmen died in the accident, described as the worst helicopter crash in the history of IAF.

“Two Mi-17 IAF helicopters crashed near Sarmat range in Gujarat at 12:05 pm. The helicopters had taken off from the Jamnagar airbase and were on a routine flying training mission. There were nine personnel on board and all succumbed to injuries,” an IAF release stated.  An inquiry has been ordered to find the cause of the accident.

The accident occurred minutes after the helicopters took off from the base. Sources in the IAF said the helicopters probably violated standard operating procedures that makes it mandatory for the aircraft to maintain a minimum distance of 60 meters while flying in formation.

On a sortie

Defence spokesperson, Group Captain M G Mehta told Deccan Herald that the helicopters were on a training sortie. “The  Russian-made multi-role choppers were learnt to have been out on a practice for a bombing mission when the accident occurred,” sources said.  Shortly after the crash, IAF officers and police officials rushed to the spot. Jamnagar Municipal Corporation fire brigades were deployed to douse the flames.

Jamnagar Superintendent of Police H K Patel said the injured were airlifted to the Air Force base hospital and their condition was critical. “We can arrive at the definite reason for the accident only after an inquiry, which has already been initiated,” senior officials told Deccan Herald.

“The Air Force station at Jamnagar is an important base for IAF and regularly carries out exercises with other wings of the Indian armed forces and also air forces of the other nations,” an official said. “In 2009 and 2011, it had carried out successful air exercises with Royal Air Force of Oman,’’ said the official. Five years ago, an MiG-29 of the Jamnagar Air Force station had crashed at the Gulf of Kutch.

This is perhaps the second mid-air collision in the Indian skies. In 1996, 349 people died in a mid-air crash involving Saudi Arabian Airlines and Kazakhstan Airlines aircraft at Charkhi Dadri village near Delhi. Defence Minister A K Antony has condoled the death of the IAF personnel.