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Air, water, road tragedies befall Maha; 13 killed

| | Mumbai
Air, water, road tragedies befall Maha; 13 killed

At least 13 persons, including five wrestlers and three woman junior college students, were killed and at least four others were reported missing, as three major tragedies — involving air, water and road — struck Maharashtra on the eve of Sankranti festival on Saturday.

Four persons were killed while three others went missing as Pawan Hans helicopter with at least five Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) officials and two pilots on board crashed shortly after take-off from Juhu Airport here in the morning. The authorities had not traced three others till late in the evening. They were either reported missing or feared dead.

Three girl students, studying in Phonda Junior College at Dahanu, drowned while 34 others — including 33 students, were rescued after a boat capsized off Dahanu coast in Palghar district in Maharashtra’s Konkan region. The students had set out on a picnic when the mishap took place at around noon.

Five wrestlers and a driver were killed, when an SUV in which they were travelling collided head-on with a tractor carrying sugarcane at Vangi in Sangli district of western Maharashtra.

The five deceased wrestlers —identified as Aakash Desai, Vijay Patil, Sourab Mane, Avinash Gaikwad and Shubham Garge — were among a dozen wrestlers who were heading to Aundh in the neighbouring Satara district to participate in a wrestling tournament. The driver, identified as one Ranjit Dhanwade, was also killed in the mishap.

In a statement relating to the helicopter crash issued late in the afternoon, ONGC stated, “A Pawan Hans Helicopter carrying five senior ONGC officers to Offshore from Juhu Helibase has gone missing around 10.40 am. The ONGC has pressed its helicopter and speedboats for search operation as soon as the information was received by the Helibase Control Room”.

“Currently five speedboats, one MSV and one chopper from ONGC have been deployed in the area to conduct search operations. The Coast Guard and Indian Navy are also extending all supports to beef up the search operations by deploying choppers and rescue boats. The search operation is being steered by the ONGC top management,” the ONGC statement said.

The helicopter took off from Juhu airport at 10.20 am, was scheduled to land at North Field of ONGC at 10.58 am. However, as per a notification by ONGC the helicopter was observed missing around 10.40 am. The helicopter crashed off Dahanu coast, 38 nautical miles north-west of Mumbai coast.

Four bodies had been recovered till the evening. “As bodies have been recovered, search and rescue operations are still on,” the ONGC confirmed through a tweet put out on its official handle at 6.45 pm.

The five ONGC officers on board the ill-fated helicopter were identified as Sarvananan, VK Babu, Jose Anthony, Pankaj Garg and P Srinivasan, all deputy general managers. The identities of the Pawan Hans pilots on board the helicopter, are not known yet.

In an effort to track down the missing persons from the crashed helicopter, the Indian Coast Guard diverted ships which were at sea and also ships are sailing from Mumbai. Dornier aircraft and helicopters from Daman (near to Dahanu) were also launched.

Meanwhile, the Palghar district authorities identified three girl students killed in the boat capsize as Sonal Bhagwan Surati, Janhawi Harish Surati and Sanskriti Mayavanshi, all aged 17 years studying in the Phonda Junior college Dahanu. Three of the 34 rescued persons - including 33 students - are undergoing treatment at a local hospital. Those undergoing treatment included a boatman.

Mourning those killed in the helicopter crash and boat tragedy, President Ram Nath Kovind in two separate tweets said, “Sad to learn about Pawan Hans helicopter crash off the coast of Mumbai. Thoughts with families of those who have lost their lives.”

“Anguished to hear of boat carrying schoolchildren capsizing in Dahanu, Maharashtra. State Government has rescued most of the passengers and is making efforts to trace those still missing. My condolences to bereaved families,” Kovind tweeted.

Through a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed deep sorrow to the crash of ONGC’s Pawan Hans helicopter in the Arabian Sea of Mumbai and expressed deep condolences towards those who have lost their lives.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also took to Twitter to inform that Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard are extending all possible assistance in the search and rescue operation for the VTPWA Dauphin AS 365 N3 helicopter and its personnel.

Petroleum and Natural Minister Dharmendra Pradhan tweeted: “Reached Mumbai to oversee the search and rescue operations of ONGC helicopter accident; reviewed the situation with officers of Navy, Coast Guard, Pawan Hans, ONGC”

“Spoke to Defence Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharamanji & requested for help from Coast Guard and other agencies in the search and rescue operations. CMD ONGC has rushed to Mumbai, pray for safety of the ONGC officers and the pilots,” Pradhan tweeted. 



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