Helicopter Crash: IAF begins investigations, police too, register case, question eye-witnesses

The IAF’s Accident Investigation Board officials visited the crash site for field investigations

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has launched an investigation into the circumstances that led to the tragic crash of helicopter Mi-17V5 that killed Chief of the Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 others near Coonoor in the Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, on Wednesday.

According to police sources, the IAF’s Accident Investigation Board officials visited the crash site for field investigations.

“Though we have registered a case and commenced enquiries with eyewitnesses and others, the IAF has the expertise to go into the technical aspects of aircraft forensics. They have the experience of past probing as well,” a senior police officer told The Hindu.

The police officer said that post-mortem examinations of those killed in the crash was delayed, and went on till late on Wednesday night because some bodies were charred beyond recognition.

The officer said that the Coonoor Police Inspector was the first to visit the crash site and he alerted all other agencies. The work of the Tamil Nadu police in the swift rescue operation came in for appreciation by top Defence officers who conveyed this to Chief Minister M.K Stalin when he visited the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington.

Another senior police officer, who is involved in the investigation, said the weather conditions in the Nilgiris changed often, affecting visibility and aircraft operations. There were several instances when helicopters carrying VVIPs from Coimbatore to Udhagamandalam returned to base owing to inclement weather conditions. It is possible that the pilot of the ill-fated helicopter had visibility issues and flew at a lower altitude to stay below the clouds. “At times it become difficult to judge the altitude while manoeuvring in foggy weather conditions,” he said.

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