| Relatives of one of the crew members of the Goa plane collision sit amid the debris in Vasco-da-Gama. (AFP)
Panaji, Oct. 2: As the death count in last morning’s mid-air crash of two naval planes rose to 17, residents of Goa today called for extra caution to safeguard civilian lives.
After colliding, one of the planes had crashed on residential areas while the other, Ilyushin-38, hit the power lifeline of port town Vasco-da-Gama, one of Goa’s most populous urban centres, plunging vast areas into darkness.
The accident occurred during a ceremonial flypast to mark the 25th anniversary celebrations of the naval Air Squadron 315, a premium maritime force of the Indian Navy.
Commentators here said that before yesterday’s accident, involving the Ilyushin-38 naval aircraft, there had been at least four plane crashes here over the last three decades.
Last year, a Sea Harrier — a vertical short take-off and landing craft — crashed in south Goa’s jungles off Canacona. The pilot ejected and was rescued by two fishermen. Canacona was also the scene of another crash, while two fighter planes crashed in Nuvem and Cuncolim villages in the early 1970s.
Today, two more bodies — that of civilians killed by the falling debris — were retrieved. Deputy inspector-general of police Karnail Singh said the condition of five of the 15 injured is still critical while three have been discharged from the hospital.
There was panic at the Mormugao Education Society College, which is a few hundred metres from the site where one of the planes crashed. Teachers rushed hysterical students to the nearby Zuari hospital, according to reports.
Reporters visiting the area, however, complained that naval officials were not allowing them to carry out their work while some cameras were confiscated. Some officials also threatened to “arrest” scribes if they ventured close to the site of the accident.
Naval chief Admiral Madhvendra Singh said at the crash site today that the board of inquiry would find out whether there was human error or “catastrophic failure” of some gadgets or engine, adds PTI.
He said there could be a number of reasons behind the mishap which has reduced the navy’s capability in this category by 40 per cent, “which is very, very large”. The navy had only five such aircraft, the admiral added.
No time frame has been given to the board for submitting its report, the naval chief said.