17 dead, six seriously hurt in Arunachal Pradesh helicopter
Guwahati/New Delhi (IANS) Seventeen people were killed while six, including both the pilots, survived after a commercial helicopter crashed and burst into flames just before landing at a high-altitude helipad in Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday, an official said.
"We can confirm that 17 people have died in the crash and that there were six survivors who have been moved to hospital with serious injuries," A. Toko, assistant director of the Arunachal Pradesh civil aviation department, told IANS by telephone.
The helicopter, which belonged to the central government-owned Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd (PHHL), caught fire just as it was about to land at the Tawang helipad located at an altitude of 11,000 feet, bordering China's Tibet region.
"It probably caught fire over the Tawang helipad as it was about to land and then crashed," Toko said.
Earlier reports said the helicopter crashed into a hill just before landing.
There were 23 people on board the chopper — 16 adult passengers, two minors, two pilots and three crew members. The helicopter can carry 30 people.
The condition of four passengers is stated to be critical. The Mi-17 helicopter took off from Assam's main city of Guwahati at 12.50 pm and crashed around 1.57 pm.
PHHL has daily services between Guwahati and Tawang for the last nine years. The company also provides services to other remote locations in Arunachal Pradesh and the rest of the northeast.
All the passengers were Indians and mostly tourists.
According to a company official, the area where the helipad is located had fine weather.
"Even yesterday the same chopper flew back and forth from here carrying passengers. We are waiting for the rescue operations to end to ascertain the cause of the crash," the official, who is located in Arunachal capital Itanagar, told IANS on the phone.