Helicopter With India’s Chief Minister on Board Declared Missing

Guwahati: A helicopter carrying a province government head of Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India has gone missing on Saturday morning following bad weather and technical errors in the chopper.

The chopper owned by Pawan Hans Helicopter Services Limited remains untraced for more than twelve hours since its departure from Tawang helipad. The officials of Arunachal claims that the chopper faced bad weather and technical problems soon after its take off from the western part of the State and later crash landed in neighbouring Bhutan.

Dorjee Khandu, the chief minister of the State, who was flying from Tawang to the State capital Itanagar just before 10 am on 30th April, was reported safe with two other passengers and two crew members. But even after half a day passed, no confirmed report of their whereabouts were reported.

The crew members of the helicopter, which was scheduled to arrive in Itanagar by 11.30 in the morning, lost its radio communication after some time of taking off and for more than three hours there was no information about the helicopter.

Later the Governor of the State Gen (retired) JJ Singh claimed that the helicopter landed at Daporijo in Bhutan (adjacent to Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh) as a precautionary measure and all passengers were safe. But the Bhutan government denied the landing of any helicopter in that part of the country, bordering India and Tibet (China). Mr Khandu, 56, took over the charge of chief ministership on April 9, 2007. He replaced Gegong Apang to become the fifth chief minister of the State.

Meanwhile, the prime minister Manmohan Singh and the ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi called on the responsible officials at Itanagar to enquire about Mr. Khandu and others. Earlier the officials of Pawan Hans HSL, which owns the helicopter (Eurocopter Ecureuil AS 350 B3), reiterated that their helicopter was just a new one and it maintained the best possible technical condition.

The Pawan Hans HS Ltd, which operates five helicopters in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura, now faces a probe against the Arunachal chopper crash. Moreover its service is immediately taken into halt after massive protests from various organizations in the region.

The State previously witnessed a heartrending Pawan Hans chopper crash on April 19 that killed 17 people and injured 6. The injured passengers are recovering in Guwahati and New Delhi hospitals. The ill-fated helicopter was flying from Guwahati to Tawang and crashed near the Tawang town.

Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati (Northeast India) based journalist, who contributes to NewsBlaze and various media outlets throughout the world.