Pawan Hans chopper crash: Recovered body identified

The body of one of the pilots that was recovered from the wreckage of the Pawan Hans helicopter that fell into Arabian Sea last week has been identified as that of Capt. TK Guha even as the search is on for the other missing pilot, a Coast Guard official said on Tuesday.

Five days after a Pawan Hans chopper crashed into the Arabian Sea 80 nautical miles off Bombay High, its wreckage was located on Monday at 6.15 pm.

Pilot E Samuel (left) and co-pilot Tarun Kumar Guha
Pilot E Samuel (left) and co-pilot Tarun Kumar Guha

Surprisingly, the wreckage was discovered just 500-metres away from the unmanned ECO ECO platform. The discovery comes a day after an ONGC search team found an unidentified headless body near the Neelam platform on Sunday afternoon.

A member of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) team, investigating the crash, said that a body was found in the cockpit with the seatbelt on.

Wife, daughter and son in law confirmed that the located body was of Capt TK Guha on the basis of the things obtained from it. On the family's request, after autopsy, the body will remain at JJ hospital mortuary on Tuesday.

"Capt. Guha's body was brought to the shore this morning at around 8.30 am and sent for a post-mortem," the Coast Guard spokesman said. Coast Guard had on Monday recovered the body after locating the wreckage, including the cockpit, of the 14-seater VTPWF Dauphin aircraft, six days after the Pawan Hans helicopter crashed into Arabian Sea off Mumbai coast on November 4.

At the time of the incident, Captains E Samuel and Guha were on board the chopper. While salvage efforts were being led by the companies concerned, Coast Guard ship 'Subhadra Kumari Chauhan' was still in the deep sea to recover more wreckage (of the helicopter) and also to find the other missing pilot, the spokesman said.

A cellphone belonging to Captain Samuel was also recovered from the wreckage, he added. While Guha’s wife Ruma arrived in the city today, their daughter Trisha and son-in-law landed in Mumbai on Saturday evening from Ireland.

Captain Guha was operating the chopper whereas Captain Samuel was supervising him. The located body is bloated but as the body was found to the right of the chopper, the investigating team on Monday evening had concluded it to be Captain Guha's body. To ascertain the same, his wife want told about it and at around 11pm on Monday, Guha's son in law and daughter were asked to be present at the Yellow Gate police station for identification of the body that was dispatched for dock by around 9pm.

According to Pawan Hans officials, the body will be taken to Pawan Hans office on Wednesday at around 11.30 am after which final rites will be performed at the Cremation ground nearby.

The 2001-make Pawan Hans helicopter crashed during night- landing practice, 160-km away from the seashore, after it had taken off from the ONGC installation. The door of the aircraft was sighted by the Navy and Coast Guard soon after it had crashed into the sea.

The helicopter wreckage was located on the seabed at a depth of 75m. Underwater locater and sonar inputs were thoroughly analysed while divers searched the area for four days.

Vessels of the ONGC were also roped for the westerly side of the sea and Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) was coordinating the search (and rescue) operation, the spokesperson added.

- With inputs from agencies

Official statement
An excerpt from the statement issued by Defence CPRO Commander Rahul Sinha reads: “The ill-fated Pawan Hans Helicopter (of Dauphin make) AS 365 N3 was located on the seabed, in a joint operation co-ordinated by the Coast Guard Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC Mumbai), with resources from Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, ONGC, Pawan Hans and resource agencies of ONGC. The cockpit with the body of one pilot was recovered late evening on November 9. The wreckage has been recovered in few parts at a depth of 75 metres and search/recovery of the remaining parts and one pilot is in progress.”

The case
The 14-seater Dauphin Chopper went missing at 7.20 pm on Wednesday. Pilot E Samuel and co-pilot Tarun Kumar Guha were manning the chopper. The chopper took off from WIS platform at 7.12 pm and was supposed land at ROM TOP MAYOR platform. The duo was practising night landing, when the chopper crashed into the sea.

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