Ambulances carrying Arjun Munda and his co-passengers leave the airport on Wednesday
Ranchi, May 10: Dragging out a bruised chief minister from a helicopter can be the ultimate make-or-mar situation for rescue personnel.
But for CISF men who were part of a quick response team (QRT) that extricated Arjun Munda and his co-passengers from the Augusta AW109 chopper that crash-landed at Birsa Munda Airport yesterday, it was a swift show of professionalism that took no more than 10 minutes.
CISF sub-inspector Rajendra Paswan, who was the first to reach the helicopter, said, “The helicopter fell on the right side of the runway. As soon as I opened the door, I found the CM’s right hand and leg were caught in the seat. The other passengers had fallen on him and his wife’s (Meera Munda) legs too were stuck in the seat. They couldn’t move because of the crash and also because of the seat belts tied around them.”
Paswan was part of a team that included inspector Hemant Jha and constables Amit Dey, P. Mishra and S.K. Iqbal at the front, with around 30 CISF, airport and fire brigade staff providing back-up support.
“At first”, Paswan said, “we quickly hauled out Meera Mundaji and Barkuanr Gagrai (Majhgaon MLA).”
The real test followed when it came to rescuing Munda.
“I managed to clear the CM’s leg from the seat while gripping his thigh. But as I was trying to slowly pull him out, he winced, saying, ‘I can’t,’” Paswan said.
“I realised his hand was still trapped between the door and the frame of the aircraft. The four other CISF officials who were rescuing the two pilots were asked to quickly lift the helicopter so that the CM could free his hand. This way, he was heaved out along with one pilot (Vipul Kumar Singh),” added Paswan.
He said the air traffic controller (ATC) had alerted them about the emergency landing around 12pm, half an hour before the helicopter took the plunge. “The QRT has to take the lead and keep following the aircraft so that once it comes down, passengers are evacuated within the minimum possible time.”
Speaking to The Telegraph over phone, CISF commandant A.K. Verma said, “It was our maiden exercise and the boys made everyone of us proud by acting swiftly.” “It took hardly 10 minutes for the QRT to evacuate and rush everyone to hospital.”
CISF deputy commandant A.K. Sinha, who was heading the QRT, said the team stuck to rule of thumb, which is to clear the aircraft as soon as possible and rush the passengers for treatment.
“In situations like these, we are taught to reach the spot within two minutes. In this case, we were in constant touch with the ATC and were well aware of the developments, as the chopper kept hovering over the airport. Proper co-ordination helped us to do our job on time,” said Sinha.
While the jawans and senior functionaries at the airport were delighted with the success of the QRT, not many were willing to talk.
“We were told to keep running along the copter’s trajectory. It was scary, as you don’t know what will happen on the ground. The aircraft may crash or explode, which can be fatal for rescuers too. But duty is duty. Fortunately, the chopper didn’t blow up after it crashed yesterday,” said a jawan.
According to CISF officials, they have three QRT teams in the airport. One team comprising five skilled officials is present in each shift.
They said that in operations such as the one yesterday, acting calmly is the most crucial, though the control room had managed to get fire tenders and ambulances ready.
“Special techniques have to be followed while evacuating people. For example, you shouldn’t hold one by the neck or stomach while pulling them out. It may prove fatal. Yesterday, we had to ensure everyone had enough breathing space,” said another jawan.