Uttarakhand: About 19 people, including Air Force and para-military personnel, were on Tuesday feared killed when a sophisticated IAF helicopter crashed in bad weather near Gaurikund in Uttarakhand during rescue operations.
Vice Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) M Sashidhar Reddy said eight bodies have been recovered and chances of any survivor among the 19 onboard were remote.
"There were 19 people onboard including NDRF, ITBP and IAF personnel. Eight bodies have been recovered," he told PTI.
An IAF spokesperson said in Delhi, "One Mi-17 V5 chopper on a rescue mission from Gauchar to Guptkashi and Kedarnath while returning from Kedarnath crashed north of Gaurikund."
Among those killed were three IAF officers, she said, adding that eight people died in the mishap.
Rudraprayag SP Varinderjeet Singh said the cause of the crash is not immediately known but chances are high that the mishap occurred due to bad weather.
A senior Air Force officer in Gauchar said the ill-fated Mi-17 chopper had made two sorties to the Kedarnath area since this morning and was on its third sortie when it crashed.
The crash occurred in "difficult" weather conditions created by rains and fog, he said.
The chopper belonged to a unit from Barrackpore Air Force Station in West Bengal under the Eastern Air Command.
A Court of Inquiry has been order to investigate the crash, the spokesperson said.
The IAF said its operations in the area will continue. IAF had started inducting Mi-17 V5 choppers only last year after 80 of them were ordered from Russia.
This is the second incident of a helicopter crash this week in the hill state.
A private helicopter carrying relief materials for the rain-affected people in Rudraprayag district had crashed on Sunday near Gaurikund leaving the pilot injured.
The five IAF personnel killed were a Wing Commander, two Flight Lieutenants, a Junior Warrant Officer and a Sergeant.
Government sources said the number of dead could not be immediately ascertained as the chopper was in flames when the reports last came in at around 8 PM.
After the crash, there is speculation that IAF chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne may visit the rain-ravaged state tomorrow.