IAF choppers collide mid-air, 9 dead

Crash

IN the first ever mid-air helicopter collision involving the Indian Air Force (IAF), nine defence personnel, including five officers, were killed when two MI-17 choppers crashed into each other minutes after taking off from the Jamnagar air base on Thursday afternoon.

While the IAF has ordered a court of inquiry into the incident, initial reports suggest that the crash took place after the rotor wings of the two choppers came into contact during a close formation flying mission. Both helicopters were fully armed for a rocket firing mission and crashed just five minutes after taking off, indicating that they had just "paired up" after take-off when the collision occurred.

While the IAF has not officially released the names of the personnel killed, the casualty list includes three wing commanders, a squadron leader, a flying officer and four other ranks. The crash took place just outside the Sarmat firing range.

According to eye-witnesses, the choppers were flying very close to each other when their rotor blades came in contact, causing both to lose control. The tail rotor of one of the choppers also snapped.

Eyewitnesses said that after the rotor blades collided, one of the two choppers veered into an 11 KV electricity transmission line, which resulted in it catching fire.

The second chopper, witnesses said, crashed into the ground and disintegrated due to the impact.

"We were at a small tea stall just a few metres away from the site when we saw the blades of the two choppers colliding with each other," said Dosabhai Boraiya, the owner of the farm where the choppers crashed. "I saw that one of choppers later touched the electricity transmission wire passing from there and caught fire," he added.

His brother Jasabhai, who was also present at the site, said they ran towards the chopper that had not caught fire and rescued three of the four IAF personnel who were on board. While all were rushed to a nearby IAF hospital, none of the personnel are believed to have survived the crash. The other chopper had five personnel on board.

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