ONGC copter with 7 aboard crashes off Mumbai coast, 4 bodies recovered

At least four people died when a Pawan Hans helicopter carrying seven people, including five ONGC employees and two pilots, crashed off the Dahanu coast near Mumbai today.

The helicopter had been leased to ONGC by the state-owned Pawan Hans helicopter firm, in which ONGC holds 49 per cent stake.

Four bodies have been recovered so far, while seven, including two pilots, were on-board. Search and rescue operations are continuing. Two senior officers of ONGC are feared to be among the four bodies recovered from the crash site off Mumbai.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman 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 onboard.

The Pawan Hans helicopter took off from the Juhu helibase (HB) at 10.13 am and was in contact with the HB radio room till 10.18 am and then changed over to Air Traffic Control or ATC, Juhu Mumbai. At 10.45 am, ONCG called up Radio Room of the Juhu Helibase appraising that they have lost contact with the chopper.

At the time of the crash, the copter was reported to be flying around 55 km off the Mumbai shoreline, on a regular sortie to the ONGC's Bombay High oilfields, around 175 km northwest from Mumbai.

''Chopper was reportedly trying to return to Juhu after flying about 30 miles when it lost all contact,'' said a senior defence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. ''A BoI [Boad of Inquiry] will ascertain the exact cause of the tragedy,'' added the official.

''ICG [Indian Coast Guard] ship Agrim picked up three bodies. Debris of helicopter located near Dahanu. Four bodies were recovered by Agrim. Two bodies belonged to passengers. They have been identified as Pankaj Garg and Bindulal Babu. Two ICG helicopters, two Dornier aircraft and five ships have been pressed in,'' said Coast Guard Commander Western Seaboard and Additional Director General Krishnaswamy Natarajan.

Sources added that while Garg's body was identified by his identity card, Babu's was identified through his driving license found in the wallet. The other three passengers on-board the ill-fated aircraft are Sarvannan, Jose Anthony and P Shrinivasan. ''Search and rescue operations are underway to locate them. With every passing hour, the possibility of rescuing them alive bleaks,'' sources added.

The Indian Coast Guard had despatched four ships, a Dornier aircraft and two helicopters to the crash region for the search and rescue operation, said an official spokesperson.