IAF helicopter missing in Arunachal; Rijiju’s chopper makes emergency landing

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Itanagar, July 4 (IANS) An Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter with three operating crews on board went missing in Arunachal Pradesh’s Papum Pare district on Tuesday, officials said.

Earlier on Tuesday, a Border Security Force (BSF) helicopter carrying Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju made an emergency landing in a polytechnic institute playground in Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh.

The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) of the IAF went missing around 3.47 p.m. It took off from Sagalee for Naharlagun heliport, a defence official told IANS.

The helicopter lost communication with the ground — the Air Traffic Control (ATC) in Chabua in Assam — minutes after it took off from Sagalee after finishing a rescue operation, he added.

The helicopter was on a sortie to rescue stranded people at Sagalee following major landslides in Papum Pare district in Arunachal Pradesh.

“We have not been able to locate the missing helicopter despite a rescue team making all-out efforts to trace it,” Sandeep Goel, the police chief of Arunachal Pradesh, told IANS.

He said rescue teams of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Arunachal Pradesh Police were formed to trace the helicopter but the rescue operation was called off due to the bad weather.

Meanwhile, police officials quoting eyewitnesses said the helicopter may have crashed at Hostalam between Borum and Toru area in Papum Pare district.

However, Goel said that he has not received such report.

“We suspended our rescue and search operations for the day due to bad weather but we will resume it tomorrow (Wednesday) morning again,” he said.

Bad weather also forced a BSF chopper carrying Rijiju to make an emergency landing in a polytechnic insitute playground in Itanagar on Tuesday, officials said.

The chopper was to land at a helipad at Raj Bhavan but due to inclement weather, the chopper was forced to land at the playground of the polytechnic.

“All people on board the chopper are safe,” Goel said.

“Weather is turbulent in North-East. I’m safe but the whole state machinery is geared up to locate IAF ALH chopper missing almost at same time,” Rijiju tweeted.

In May, two pilots of the Indian Air Force in Sukhoi-30 fighter jet crashed near the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.

In 2015, a Pawan Hans helicopter with three persons on board including Tirap Deputy Commissioner Kamlesh Joshi, crashed in a dense jungle. Joshi was killed in the crash.

In 2011, then Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others died after their Pawan Hans chopper crashed at a remote location in the state.

A few days later, another helicopter crashed while landing in Tawang, killing 16 people.

Following the crashes, commercial chopper services were stopped in the state till 2013 when Pawan Hans restarted the service in Arunachal Pradesh and other parts of the region.

Pawan Hans Helicopter Services Limited (PHHL) has been operating chopper services across Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura and daily Guwahati-Tawang services for over 15 years.

It is one of the major lifelines in landlocked and mountainous Arunachal Pradesh.

–IANS

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