Tragedy hits ONGC as chopper goes down into sea


Mumbai, A Pawan Hans helicopter, carrying five officials of oil major ONGC to Mumbai High North Field, crashed off the coast of Mumbai on Saturday, with no hopes of survivors. The two pilots of the chopper were also feared dead.Coast Guard officials said four bodies had been recovered by evening while three were still missing.The identification of the bodies was in process. The search operation involved five speedboats and one chopper from ONGC, along with the Coast Guard and Indian Navy. Navy deployed its stealth frigate, INS Teg, for the search operation while surveillance aircraft P8I was also pressed into service."A Dornier aircraft and helicopters from Daman (near Dahanu) have also been launched," a Coast Guard spokesperson said. The spokesperson added that 'some debris has been located'.The search was led by ONGC top management.Company chairman Shashi Shanker rushed to Mumbai to monitor the search operation. Sources said the seven-year-old chopper, VTPWA Dauphin AS-365 N3, with seven people on board took off from Juhu this morning at 1020 hrs and was expected to land at the Mumbai High North Field at 1058 hrs, but before that, it crashed.Its last contact with the Air Traffic Control was at 1035 hrs, when it was 30 nautical miles off Mumbai. "VTPWA Dauphin AS-365 N3 was scheduled to land at North Field of ONGC at 1058 hrs, but didn't arrive at the scheduled time. No contact could be established after 1030 hrs and search operation was launched soon after," an official said."We have already diverted ships and aircrafts to the area," the official added. In a statement, ONGC said, "The reason behind the unfortunate incident is yet to be ascertained." Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan said,"The Navy and the Coast Guard are on the job. I am also going to Mumbai to coordinate things." Mr Pradhan said he had held consultations with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who had instructed the Navy and the Coast Guard to look into the issue extensively According to Indian Coast Guard, the last contact made by the chopper with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) and ONGC was at 1035 hrs. It was flying 30 nautical miles off Mumbai. 'We have deployed all our helicopters including from each of our naval bases in search of the missing chopper. It is a Pawan Hans chopper, carrying five employees. We are working towards finding the chopper at the earliest,' an official of ONGC said. 'We have already diverted ship and aircraft to area. Will update once any news is received,' the ICG said. The chopper was scheduled to land at North Field of ONGC at 1058 hrs.A Twitter post by the Indian Coast Guard stated, 'Ships and aircrafts on SAR mission 40 nautical miles North West of Mumbai for ill fated ONGC helicopter and recovered 4th body. SAR continues. 'Aircraft with 2 pilots and 5 passengers went missing after getting airborne from Juhu at 1030 hrs. India Coast Guard Ship on receipt of information reached area, located the debris, picked up a body at 1230 hours,” it added. A spokesperson for the Indian Navy said on Twitter,'Search and rescue (SAR) for missing civil helicopter off Mumbai High, 2X Immediate Support Vessels (ISVs) already deployed for patrol in area have been diverted for Search and Rescue along with 3 X ICG units already in area. 42B helicopter has also been launched to SAR operations.Stealth frigate INS Teg leaving for search is with medical teams embarked. One Skg42C standing by at Colaba air station. One P8i is being launched for search in the area.”Among those on board were officials from the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation or ONGC who were headed for the Offshore Development Area in the north fields of Mumbai High.