The Hush Post: A Pawan Hans helicopter with seven persons on board, carrying five senior officials of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and two pilots, crashed off the Mumbai coast minutes after it took off for the state-owned company’s oil installation in the Arabian Sea. Capt VC Katoch, one of the two pilots, belonged to Panchkula. Six bodies were found by late evening, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation said.  Capt Katoch was a former Army Aviation Corps pilot. An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, he was commissioned into the Army in December 1985. He later converted to the Army Aviation from his parent arm. He left the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel after putting in 25 years of service. He had been flying with the national helicopter carrier, Pawan Hans, for about 11 years.

Capt Katoch, was living in the Pawan Hans Colony in Mumbai with his wife and two daughters but has a flat in Panchkula.

The helicopter with five ONGC officials, including three of the level of Deputy General Manager, crashed 15 minutes after the take-off at 10.20 am. Coast Guard officials said the chopper was 50 km off Mumbai’s coast when the mishap took place. The helicopter had three hours of fuel and had switched radio contact from the Juhu airfield to air traffic controller on board the ONGC oil rig a few minutes before it was lost.

The Pawan Hans helicopter took off from the Juhu helibase at 10.13 am. It contacted the helibase radio room at 10.18 am and then changed over to Air Traffic Control Juhu. At 10.45 am, ONGC called the radio room of the helibase saying they had lost contact with the chopper. he chopper was reportedly trying to return to Juhu after flying about 30 miles when it lost all contact.

The bodies of ONGC de puty general managers Pankaj Garg and V K Bindu Lal Babu were recovered near the debris of the chopper and identified by afternoon. The others on board were deputy general managers R Saravanan, P N Sreenivasan, Jose Antony, and pilot Captain Ramesh Ohatkar .  ONGC has key oil and gas fields off the Mumbai coast and Pawan Hans copters routinely ferry staff to the installations as far as 160 km from the coastline.


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