A mower at the airport fatally injured its driver, who fell off the seat, and rolled across the main runway a couple of hours before the President’s plane was to land on Friday morning.
The freak accident occurred around 10.30am, while the President’s aircraft landed at 12.18pm, said sources.
Officials said Bapi Oraon, 40, fell off the seat of the mower while trimming grass on a patch near the main runway and was critically injured by the blades. He was taken to a private hospital, where doctors declared him dead.
“After the driver fell, the mower hit a lamp post, changed course and entered the main runway. The vehicle rolled across the runway and stopped in the peripheral area,” said a senior official. “No aircraft was landing or taking off then.”
Employees working for 10 years or more at the airport failed to recall another instance of an unmanned vehicle or vehicle-like machine like a mower or a roller entering the runway.
Officials said mowers are frequently pressed to cut grass around the airport to prevent jackals and birds from flocking to the area and coming in the way of flights during take-off or touch-down.
On Friday, airport sources said, the mower was near the northern end of the main runway when Oraon, who had been hired by the Airports Authority of India, suddenly fell off the seat.
“He could have suffered a cardiac arrest or the vehicle could have hit a boulder,” said an official.
Once Oraon fell and lay bleeding, the mower on its own hit a light post beside the runway. “It then entered the runway and rolled across it before coming to a stop,” he said.
On Friday morning, flights were operating from the southern end of the runway. “The accident occurred on the opposite side. Even if a flight had landed while the mower was rolling across the runway, the pilot would have had enough time to press the brakes and avert a disaster,” said an official.
The directorate-general of civil aviation has ordered a probe.