10 cops to ensure villagers don't steal parts of crashed chopper near Thane

They may have completed the Herculean feat of salvaging bodies from the helicopter crash site and carrying them down the rocky slopes of Naneghat, but for the rural Thane police, another task has just begun. They are now busy guarding the wreckage from curious villagers, so that no evidence is lost.

7.47 am: The Bell 212 chopper takes off from Juhu Aerodrome in Mumbai with five people on board

8.10 am: The chopper goes missing from the radar. 

Ten police officers were appointed to keep vigil all night at the crash site and prevent natives from making away with parts of the helicopter that crashed last morning around 9 am.

Villagers of Tokawade hear a crashing sound and rush to the source to discover that a chopper has crash-landed. Illustration: Amit Bandre

No of people in the chopper, including two passengers, one pilot, one co-pilot and a technician 

The helicopter was carrying five people -- two passengers, a pilot, his co-pilot and a technician -- when it came crashing down on the hills of Naneghat in Murbad, about 100 kilometres from Mumbai. The helicopter was headed towards Aurangabad.

Remains of the day: The helicopter had taken off from Juhu aerodrome and came crashing down on the hills of Naneghat in Murbad, about 100 km from Mumbai. Pics/Atul Kamble

Speaking from Murbad, investigating officer Hemant Patil said, “All the bodies have been recovered, and sent for post mortem to Tokawade hospital. There were five people and all their bodies were found at the site. We are investigating the matter and with the help of specific investigating agencies.” The five people who died in the crash have been identified as Captain S Baduria (52), Captain Allen Martin (30), Captain Anshu Matta (54), Yatin Wakade (30) and Dean D’Souza (38).

Patil added that the chief concern is now to keep the wreckage safe. “We have deployed 10 police officers at the crash site. They will be guarding the spot so that nothing is taken. We can't let any part go missing, as we have to investigate the scene along with specific agencies. A number of villagers are visiting the spot, and if anyone takes anything, investigations will be hampered,” said Patil.

wrecked: Villagers thronged the crash site all day. Pics/Atul Kamble

Out of the way
The crash site is an eight-kilometre trek from National Highway 222, which is the closest spot that can be reached by vehicles. Tukaram Thombre, a police constable who was walking his way up with his colleague to guard the spot, said, “We have been told by our officer to stay put there and make sure that no one steals anything. They will send us food and water later.”

Flying too low?
Villagers have said that the helicopter was flying too low when it passed them. K B Gude, a resident of Tokawade village, claimed to have seen the helicopter hover just 50 feet above his village. “It was flying too low. We thought it was going to a nearby farmhouse owned by a minister, as many helicopters land there. But then we heard a huge blast. We all rushed towards the spot and when we reached, we saw the chopper had crashed.” 

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