Mumbai (The Hindu): A commercial helicopter carrying with two passengers, a pilot and a technician, crashed in the city’s Aarey Colony area on Sunday, leaving the pilot dead and others critically injured.
The incident occurred around 12 noon near Jambli Maidan in Filter Pada area of Aarey Colony, Goregaon East. The pilot, Praful Mishra, and the survivors, Sanjay Shankar, Ritesh Modi, and Brinda Modi, were pulled out of the copter by the locals who rushed to the spot after witnessing the crash.
“We were playing cricket when we saw the helicopter rushing to the ground at great speed. There was a loud blast and it caught fire immediately. All of us rushed to the spot and started pulling out the occupants inside the helicopter,” said Deepak Nikule, a resident of Filter Pada.
The crash site is almost 50 meters from the residence of Lakma Paghe (50), a farmer, who was in his fields at the time of the crash.
“The pilot looked dead when we reached the spot, and the woman was screaming for help. Others looked unconscious and still had their seat belts fastened. The helicopter was in flames. We tried to douse it with water but it didn’t work. That’s when I cut the belt loose with a sickle and dragged them out one by one,” Mr. Paghe said.
Another resident of the area, Tabrez Khan (27), who recorded the rescue operation on his phone, said the police and fire-brigade were informe immediately after the crash, and a group of locals used private transport to rushed the four to Seven Hills Hospital in Marol without waiting for any ambulance.
The pilot was declared dead on arrival at the hospital, and the survivors are admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.
The medical superintendent at the hospital, Dr. Rajendra Karwa, said Mr. Modi sustained severe injuries on the head and chest and is critical. “He may need a surgery but the call to operate will be taken later, after his condition stabilizes. Brinda has suffered from 30 to 40 per cent burns. She is conscious. Sanjay has multiple fractures. He is conscious and stable,” Dr. Karwa said.
The helicopter was a Robinson R-44 model, and was operated by Aman Aviation, a helicopter tour agency that operates joy-rides from Juhu. The agency could not be reached for a comment on Sunday. However, officials from the Airports Authority of India, who were present at the crash site, said the pilot had reported a failure of the helicopter’s clutch just before the crash, and it is prima-facie being considered as the reason behind the crash. “The helicopter had taken off from Juhu, and it was supposed to be a 15-minute ride,” the official added.
Captain Mishra, an ex-Army man, was an extremely skilled pilot. Customers would often give good reviews to Aman Aviation stating that he would explain each and every location they were flying over with great detail. A resident of Chandivali, he is survived by his wife and two sons. A relative said his body would be taken to Bhubaneshwar for last rites after the DGCA gives a go ahead. "The DGCA wants to conduct investigations and only then allow the body to be taken," the relative added.
An employee of Aman Aviation said that Mishra has more than 20 years of flying experience. "Last week he treated us for lunch on his birthday. We are in shock that we lost such a wonderful colleague," he added.
The Modi's are residents of Yogi Nagar in Borivali. Aman Aviation will be paying their medical bill.
Shiv Sena MLA, Ravindra Waikar, who met the victims at the hospital, said, “Sanjay, the technician, told me there was a technical glitch, which they immediately reported and decided to land in an open space. But children were playing at the first spot they saw, so they moved slightly ahead; by then the helicopter [had] begun swinging,” Mr. Waikar said.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police, zone 12, Kirankumar Chavan said a team of investigators is looking into the incident to ascertain the reason behind the crash.
The fire brigade arrived at the crash site around 12.37 p.m.“A level-one fire call was reported and the fire was doused within 10 to 15 minutes,” Chief Fire Officer of Mumbai Fire Brigade, P.S. Rahangdale, said.
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