IAF chopper crashes near Tawang, 7 military personnel dead; second such incident in three months

By PTI

Itanagar/New Delhi: An Mi-17 helicopter of the Indian Air Force crashed on Friday near Tawang, a remote mountainous town close to the Sino-India border, killing all
seven military personnel on board.

Five IAF personnel, including two pilots, and two armymen were killed when the Mi-17 V5 chopper crashed around 7 pm after getting airborne from a helipad North of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, an IAF spokesperson said in New Delhi.

"The helicopter was carrying supplies to a forward post of the Indian Army in the hilly terrain. The helicopter crashed close to the dropping zone and caught fire immediately," he said.

Representational image. Image courtesy PIB

The Russian-manufactured helicopter was carrying supplies to a forward post of the Indian Army in the mountainous region and was on its the second sortie of the day. The five IAF deceased IAF personnel are Captain of the aircraft Wing Commander V Upadhyay, Co-pilot Squadron Leader S Tewari, Master Warrant Officer AK Singh, Sgt Gautam Kumar and Sgt Satish Kumar. The two army personnel are Sepoy HN Deka and Sepoy E Balaji.

The IAF spokesperson said a court of inquiry has been ordered to establish the cause of the accident. Tawang Superintendent of Police MK Meena said the chopper had taken off from the Khirmu helipad near Tawang and was on its way to Yangste.

The Russian manufactured Mi-17 V5 chopper was on an air maintenance mission and was also scheduled to drop off kerosene jerry cans at an army camp in Yangste, he said. All the bodies were recovered by a team of the IAF and the army.

"The rescue operation was carried out at an altitude of almost 17,000 feet above sea level," Meena said. "All the bodies were brought to Khirmu helipad for medical formalities and flown to Tezpur airbase," he added. A team of police and district administration officials has left for the crash site to gather more details.

Friday's crash comes two days ahead of Air Force Day on 8 October and is the second incident involving IAF helicopters in Arunachal Pradesh in three months.

"Our losses in the peacetime are a cause of concern. We are making concerted efforts to minimise accidents and preserve our assets," Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa had said on Thursday, referring to a string of crashes of IAF choppers and military jets in recent years.

An Advanced Light Helicopter of the IAF had crashed at Saglee in Papum Pare district on 4 July, claiming the lives of of all four on board.

The Mi-17 V5 is a Russian built medium-lift military transport chopper.