Mumbai: DGCA collects samples from Aarey chopper crash

Updated: Dec 13, 2016, 10:30 IST | Aparna Shukla |

Investigation is likely to reveal the cause of the crash in a couple of days; company CEO says the chopper was licensed to fly till 2018

A team of officials flew down from the DGCA in Delhi to investigate the crash site, which was under heavy police protection. Pic/Poonam Bathija
A team of officials flew down from the DGCA in Delhi to investigate the crash site, which was under heavy police protection. Pic/Poonam Bathija

A day after the tragic chopper crash in Aarey Colony that killed one and injured three, the wreckage site was under lockdown, as the authorities conducted their investigation into the cause of the mishap. Sources revealed that the investigation report will likely be ready by Thursday.

Apart from the pilot and technician, the helicopter was carrying a married couple ˆ— on a joyride to celebrate their wedding anniversary. But five minutes in, the aircraft developed technical issues. The pilot attempted an emergency landing at an open ground at Filterpada, but the chopper crashed instead, killing the pilot.

Government probe
Two officials from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have arrived from Delhi to investigate the accident and collect samples for analysis. One of the officials, Ramachandra, said, "It won't be right to single out one particular theory without proper probe. Everything will be examined in the lab; only then can we comment."

After the samples are collected, the salvageable portion of the chopper (10 per cent of the aircraft) will be taken to Juhu airport. Officials from the Aircraft Investigation Board and Bureau of Civil Aviation were also present at the spot, along with a team from Aman Aviation, the company that provided the chopper service. Company CEO, RN Johri, said, "We are here to facilitate the government investigation. After this is done, we will start our own investigation."

'Not too old'
Sources had said that one of the factors that may have contributed to the mishap is the age of the Robinson-44-Astro copter, which is at least 20 years old. However, Johri insisted this was not the case. "Even our prime minister travels in a copter which is 24 years old. How can we say ours was too old? With machines like these, there is no such thing as a 'shelf life'. With proper maintenance, it will work for as long as you want," he said, adding that the chopper had a flying permit which was not up for renewal till September 2018.

Johri said that the company has two more choppers of the same make and expressed the hope that the company can return to normal business once the probe is over. "The results of the investigation have not come out yet, but we are hopeful that after the procedure is done, we won't have to halt the business." Today, the company is also likely to bring insurance officials to inspect the crash site and debris. The chopper is valued at '1.2 crore and the payout will be given to the victims and families.

Tight security
Apart from the investigators and the aviation company, the crash site is out of bounds to everyone. The 100-metre stretch is under tight police protection. Filterpada is surrounded by several residential areas like Mayur Nagar, BST Nagar, Bangoda, Ramnagar and Royal Palms, which house around 5,000 people, apart from witnessing active movement by leopards.

PI Chandrakant Kampe from Aarey police station said, "For us, leopards are no alien as we live here. So, if at all something had happened, we would have been completely prepared to tackle the situation. We made sure that nothing touches the evidence." "We had rifles, torches and laathis for protection. We even installed two generators in case of emergencies," said PI SG Desai.

DCP Kiran Kumar Chavan, who was present at the spot, said, "A detailed investigation is being carried out at the moment. A report will be made after the investigation is done and then further action will be taken."

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