Four die as ONGC chopper falls into sea off Mumbai coast
A brand new Pawan Hans Sikorsky chopper with nine people on board crashed into the Arabian Sea around 50 nautical miles from the Mumbai coast on Tuesday, killing four people, including three Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) employees.
The helicopter, one of the six Sikorsky S-76D helicopters that Pawan Hans had recently leased from the Milestone Aviation Group, was around 4-5 minutes away from its destination — ONGC’s Sagar Kiran rig — when the incident took place, company officials said.
The chopper went down around 11.45am, just one nautical mile away from Sagar Kiran, but managed to stay afloat with the help of the attached floaters, helping rescuers pull out all the nine, including two pilots, after ONGC and navy/coast guard scrambled in one of the fastest rescue missions in the western offshore.
Four of the nine pulled out were unconscious and were airlifted in a navy chopper to a Mumbai hospital, where they were declared dead, an official said.
Three of the dead are employees of ONGC, the state-owned firm which had hired helicopter service from Pawan Hans to support its oil and gas exploration and production operations in the western offshore. The fourth victim was employed by a contractor working for ONGC.
The circumstances that led to the incident were not immediately known but western offshore had inclement weather and there was a swell in the sea. Officials said ONGC has instituted an inquiry.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is also likely to order a separate inquiry.
Detailing sequence, officials said the chopper took off from Juhu helibase on Tuesday morning just like any other day but 1km or 1.5 km from the landing zone on the rig, it went down into the sea.
It, however, managed to stay afloat with floaters fitted on such helicopters going offshore.
“What we don’t know is if the helicopter toppled during the float,” an official said.
On first information, ONGC and navy scrambled vessels for the rescue. A high-speed boat from Sagar Kiran rig was first to reach the spot.