The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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High-tension wire twist in tale

Ambala/Chandigarh, Nov. 6: Air force authorities in Ambala have ordered a ban on dissemination of information regarding yesterday’s Jaguar crash.

Eyewitnesses and air force officers in Ambala and Chandigarh, however, revealed that the ill-fated aircraft, which was on a routine flight with another aircraft, could have touched a high-tension wire while trying to land. “One aircraft had already landed. Both the landing and taking off paths are very dangerous as we have to literally fly over rooftops. Sometimes, we come so low that the aircraft can be touched with a pole from the terrace,” a pilot said.

Inquiries revealed that so far, 32 Jaguars have crashed since their induction. Over 90 air force aircraft have crashed in the last six years killing 35 pilots and causing a loss of over Rs 900 crore to the government.

Six persons killed in the crash — Lajo, 40, Nirmala, 70, Aarti, 16, Parveen, 7, Bharat, 7, and Bimla — were cremated in Ambala today. Bimla succumbed to injuries at the military hospital early today.

The cremation was attended by Himachal Pradesh Governor Suraj Bhan, Union information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj, Haryana health minister M.L. Ranga, social welfare minister Risal Singh, Haryana BJP president and MP Rattan Lal Kataria and senior civil and police officers. Bhan and Swaraj consoled the families of the victims, especially Murari Lal, who lost his entire family.

Ranga said Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala has announced a relief of Rs 1 lakh for the victims’ next of kin. Chautala has also said all those injured in the accident would be provided free medical treatment by the state government. The chief minister has promised compensation for damaged property.

The incident has once again focused attention on the growing urbanisation around airfields and ammunition dumps in the region. Kataria said he would raise the issue of shifting the air force base away from the residential area in Ambala.

The death toll in the Jaguar crash would have been much higher had it crashed on the nearby Baba Balak Nath temple which was teeming with devotees at the time of the incident.

According to an eyewitness, Rakesh Goyal, there were over 700 people inside the temple when the Jaguar came crashing down.

“We should consider ourselves lucky. Devotees were stunned when they heard a loud bang behind the temple. At first, it seemed to be a terrorist attack. But then, there was another sound of the plane’s underbelly rubbing against the top of a tree inside the temple complex and moving on to completely destroy two nearby houses,” Goyal said.

, pointing to the tree that has suffered some damage.

“Everything happened in a flash.”

No senior air force officer visited the crash site till the evening today. Earlier, some air force personnel came in a helicopter, located the black box and disappeared.

According to Ambala sub-divisional magistrate M.K. Ahuja, the toll is expected to rise. “We have not yet cleared the rubble from the area. There could be more bodies inside,” he said.

Five of the seriously injured are being treated at the Ambala military hospital, five in PGI, Chandigarh, two at the Government Medical College Hospital, also in Chandigarh.

Two persons have been discharged after being administered first-aid. The condition of four is stated to be serious as they have suffered over 75 per cent burn injuries. Flight lieutenant Rehani, who suffered spinal injuries, was reportedly making steady “progress” in hospital.

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