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Mechanical fault led to army's helicopter crash in Arunachal: Five killed

The Air Traffic Control (ATC) had received a 'May Day' call (technical/mechanical fault) just before the crash, official sources said. Weather was clear. The pilots were experienced. However, the terrain is "extremely challenging" with hills, steep gradients and thick jungle, the army said in a statement.

ITANAGAR, Oct 22: The bodies of the five army personnel killed in a helicopter crash in Arunachal on Friday have been recovered.

The army helicopter with the five personnel, including two pilots, had crashed in the jungles of Chingging village in Arunachal Pradesh's Upper Siang district, not far from the China border, at 10:45 am on Friday. Four bodies were recovered in the afternoon and the missing fifth was found on Saturday morning. Chingging is 25 km south of district headquarters, Tuting.

The deceased have been identified as Maj Vikas Bhambhu, Maj Mustafa Bohara, CFN Tech AVN Aswin KV, HAV (OPR) Biresh Sinha, NK (OPR) Rohit Ashva Kumar.

It is officially stated that the air traffic control had received a message of technical or mechanical fault called 'May Day' call from the chopper just before it crashed.

A defence spokesperson said, "The bodies of the four Army personnel have been recovered from the crash site in a densely wooded mountain area 35 km from the border with China." An MI-17 and two ALHs along with three columns of the Army were deployed for search. The police had also joined the search operations.

The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) named HAL Rudra had lost contact with the air traffic tower before crashing in the rough terrain which is inaccessible from the ground as there is no motorable road. It was flying from Likabali in Lower Siang district carrying the army personnel in a regular sortie.

"It is reported that the weather was good for flying operations. The pilots had more than 600 combined flying hours on ALH-WSI and over 1,800 service flying hours between them. The aircraft was inducted into service in June 2015. This will form the focus of the Court of Inquiry, which has been immediately constituted to investigate the causes of the accident," the Defence PRO said. A court of inquiry has been set up to probe the crash.

HAL Rudra is an attack helicopter manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Army. It is a weapon system integrated (WSI) Mk-IV variant of the Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH) and is the first armed helicopter produced indigenously in India. The aircraft was inducted into service in June 2015.

This is the second such accident to occur in Arunachal Pradesh during the current month in which another advanced light helicopter, a Cheetah crashed in Tawang, on October 5, killing one pilot and injuring several others. The crash took place 50 km from the border, at Nyamjang Chu near Bap Teng Kang waterfall of Jemeithang circle in Tawang district.

These choppers are used to carry essential commodities to the soldiers in the forward areas as also for emergency evacuation in contingencies.

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