Bad weather may have sent chopper crashing near Thane

Sep 30, 2013, 09:08 IST | Neha LM Tripathi and Shashank Rao

The helicopter was on its way to Aurangabad en route to Nagpur; authorities surmise that fog drove it into clouds, causing it to crash into the rocky slopes of Naneghat; none survived

Around 7.47 am yesterday, a Bell 212 helicopter carrying five men lifted off from Juhu Aerodrome for Nagpur. Only about 20 minutes later, the ill-fated carrier crash-landed on the rocky slopes near Murbad in Thane. None of the passengers survived the crash.

The chopper, which is owned by United Helicharters Pvt Ltd, crashed near Tokawade village. It was scheduled to land at Aurangabad at 9.30 am, before lifting off again for Nagpur.

7.47 am:- The Bell 212 chopper takes off from Juhu Aerodrome in Mumbai with five people on board. Illustration: Amit Bandre

At 8.10 am, the carrier went missing from the radar, and could not be tracked by the Aurangabad Air Traffic Control. Authorities are speculating that the crash was caused by bad weather. A cop said, “The twin-blade chopper is likely to have crashed due to bad weather. It was very foggy in the morning, which may have caused the pilot to run into clouds and then crash into the mountains.”

‘Brush with power lines didn’t cause crash’
Early theories suggested that the helicopter inadvertently touched high-tension transmission wires, causing it to crash. But officials from the Maharashtra State Electricity Transmission Company Limited debunked this: “These 550 KVA lines supply power to the main grid, which in turn supplies electricity to Ahmednagar. The helicopter did not even come close to transmission lines, as that would have resulted in a major power outage. The crash has taken place at least 10 km away from the transmission lines.”

8.10 am: -The chopper goes missing from the radar.

The rescue workers found it difficult to carry the bodies down the treacherous hill slopes, some of which are extremely steep and couldn’t be covered on foot with the bodies in tow. The bodies were wrapped in cloth and tied to bamboo poles. The villagers and policemen shouldered the poles at each end and manoeuvred the makeshift stretchers down the hill. “With the help of the villagers, we managed to get the bodies down and loaded them onto a trolley attached to a tractor stationed at the foot of the mountain,” said a police officer.

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

Trekkers show the way
Help came from unexpected quarters at the crash site, which is inaccessible owing to its height and the absence of proper roads. “We saw the policemen wandering in different directions in their attempts to find routes to the spot. Since we are regular trekkers, we knew the way to the spot, and guided them,” said a member of Indradhanush Trekkers. 

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

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