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7 Dead As Helicopter Ferrying Kedarnath Pilgrims Crashes Into Hillside

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Rudraprayag (U’khand), Oct 18: A helicopter ferrying pilgrims from Kedarnath temple to Guptkashi crashed into a hill here amid dense fog on Tuesday, killing all seven people on board.

The chopper – a Bell 407 operated by private company Aryan Aviation – burst into flames around 11.45 am at Dev Darshini in Rudraprayag’s Garud Chatti, District Disaster Management Officer Nandan Singh said.

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The crash took place within seconds – “five or six seconds”, according to one eyewitness – of taking off from the Kedarnath helipad.

Teams from the National Disaster Response Force, disaster response forces of Uttarakhand and Delhi, and police brought the bodies to the helipad.

President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia condoled the deaths of the six pilgrims and the helicopter pilot.

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Teams of Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) and aviation regulator DGCA will probe the crash, a senior official said.

Aryan Aviation and four other operators flying on the Kedarnath Yatra route were recently fined Rs 5 lakh by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for certain violations, an official said.

 

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Manohar Singh, a security man deployed at Kedarnath helipad, said the helicopter crashed into the hill two kilometres away just seconds after takeoff.

“Nothing was visible immediately due to the thick blanket of fog enveloping the area but everyone ran in the direction of the huge sound of the crash,” he said.

As the fog thinned, the helicopter was seen in flames and its pieces scattered all over the slopes of Garud Chatti, Singh said.

 

The Rudraprayag disaster management office identified the dead pilgrims as Poorva Ramanuj (26), Kriti Brar (30) and Urvi Brar (25) from Gujarat, and Sujata (56), Prem Kumar and Kala (60) from Tamil Nadu. Pilot Anil Singh (57) hailed from Maharashtra, it said.

Kriti and Urvi Brar were cousins. Kriti worked for a private company and Urvi was preparing for competitive exams, their family members said.

 

President Murmu said the news of the deaths in the crash near Kedarnath Dham was very sad. “My deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones,” she tweeted in Hindi.

“Anguished by the helicopter crash in Uttarakhand. In this tragic hour, my thoughts are with the bereaved families,” Prime Minister Modi was quoted as saying in a tweet by his office.

He was scheduled to visit the shrine on Friday.

 

In August 2019, three people were killed when another private helicopter crashed in the state. The chopper was carrying relief material for flood victims in Uttarkashi.

In June this year, the DGCA issued an advisory to helicopter operators flying on the Char Dham pilgrimage routes.

 

It came against the backdrop of an incident in which a helicopter bounced and turned 270 degrees while landing at the Kedarnath helipad in May.

The advisory cautioned pilots about the presence of any tailwinds while approaching to land, particularly at Kedarnath. If the tailwinds or crosswinds are beyond permissible limits, the approach must be abandoned and the helicopter must return to base, it advised.

The DGCA said the operators must ensure that helicopter pilots are qualified and well rested.

 

According to the Badrinath Kedarnath temple committee data, 2,42,712 pilgrims visited the Kedarnath shrine in 2021.

Most pilgrims trek for hours to reach the popular shrine. The chopper ride takes a few minutes.

The gates of the shrine were to close for winter on October 26.

Civil Aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia tweeted that he was “deeply saddened” by the loss of lives.

 

Himachal Pradesh chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal too expressed grief. (PTI)

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The Hills Times
The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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