Crashed Pawan Hans chopper VDR found, one pilot still missing

Mumbai, Jan 14 (IANS) Nearly 24 hours after a Pawan Hans Ltd. Dauphin helicopter carrying five senior ONGC officials crashed near here, rescuers have recovered the Voice Data Recorder but serach is still on for one missing pilot, officials said on Sunday.

A total of 16 ships — two of Indian Navy, five of Indian Coast Guard and nine of ONGC — and four aircraft from Navy and Coast Guard have been pressed into service since Sunday morning. INS Makar, a special hydrographic ship with side scan sonar capability is supplementing the search efforts, officials said.

The bodies of five ONGC deputy general managers and one pilot were recovered late on Saturday and brought to shore.

Offshore Supply Vessel (OSV) TAG-15 (with side scan sonar) and OSV Samudra Sevak are currently undertaking survey in the area for locating the missing crew and debris of aircraft.

The Dauphin chopper had taken off at 10.20 a.m on Saturday. Just 15 minutes later, it suddenly lost contact with both the Mumbai ATC and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) in Mumbai.

At that time, it was reported to be flying around 55 km off the Mumbai shoreline, on a regular sortie to ferry the ONGC officials to ONGC’s Bombay High gas-oil fields, around 175 km northwest from here.

A massive air and sea search and rescue operation was launched by the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and by late Saturday evening debris of the chopper and six bodies were recovered near Uttan, off Thane coast.

The VDR could provide clues on the circumstances and caused leading to the helicopter crash which has stunned the ONGC and PHL establishments.

The ONGC officials were identified as P. N. Sreenivasan and Pankaj Garg (both DGM, Mechanical), Jose Antony, R. Sarvanan and V.K. Bindulal Babu (all DGM, Production) and all based in Mumbai.

The two pilots have been identified as Captains V.C. Katoch and Ramesh Oathkar.

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