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3 killed in Army chopper crash, Colonel, 2 Majors perish in crash near Viswema village

Security personnel at the crash site at Teyozükha above Viswema village. The body of one of the pilots can be seen at the site. (NP)
Correspondent VISWEMA, AUG 18 (NPN):
Published on 19 Aug. 2010 12:18 AM IST
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Three officers-a Colonel and two Majors- were killed when the Army Cheetah helicopter crashed on the Teyozükha mountain slope above Viswema, 8 kms ahead of Zakhama while on a operational sortie from Dimapur to Imphal Wednesday at around 8.30 a.m.
Army sources said the chopper left Rangapahar military station at around 7.50 am and the mishap occurred after the chopper was “trapped in bad weather”, near Viswema village. The army said there was loss of contact with the helicopter at around 8.25 am while it was flying south of Kohima in the general area of Viswema and reportedly crashed approximately five km West of Viswema village.
Those killed were identified as Col PK Pal Sena Medal, C.O. EME and pilots- Maj. Nikhil Prakash and Maj. Rakesh Sharma.
Sources said the helicopter appeared to have nose dived and hit the hill slope killing all occupants on the spot. The bodies were found near the mangled debris on the steep slope located at an altitude of 2339 metres above sea level.
The body of the pilot and co-pilot were found to the left and in front of the downed chopper while the body of the Colonel was found to the right side towards Viswema village.
Villagers told this Correspondent that the chopper was last seen hovering twice above the village, owing to thick mist and bad weather and disappeared. They did not hear any crash nor explosion. One Nepali laborer coming from the mountain told the villagers that he heard some loud noise.
A search operation launched by volunteers from the village who trekked up the steep mountain slope finally located the debris of the crashed helicopter. All the three bodies were recovered at around 12.30 pm. Simultaneously, the army and the district administration also launched search operations and secured the crashed site.
Media persons also rushed to the spot. The helicopter appeared to have first hit the slope head on and as indicated by crater formed by the rotor blades. After impact, the chopper tail was thrown towards the hill top. The slope was at 75 degree incline and there was no sign of any explosion or burns despite oil spill. The debris included the black box, one AK rifle along with two magazines, which were retrieved by security personnel.
This is the second helicopter crash that occurred in Kohima district. Earlier during the mid-90s a civilian helicopter crashed near Kohima killing all crew members.
GOC 3 Corps, Lt Gen NK Singh, AVSM, VSM expressed sadness at the tragic helicopter crash and the untimely loss of the precious lives of three officers. Lt Gen Singh, in his message mourned the loss of the young, dynamic and courageous officers and sent condolences to the families and units.
State chief minister, Neiphiu Rio expressed deep shock on hearing the news of the crash. He said it was “extremely unfortunate” that the crash occurred just minutes before landing at Zakhama. “They were in the service of the people and the country in the given capacities and their tragic death, the army have indeed lost three very efficient officers,” Rio said in a condolence message. On behalf of the people of Nagaland, Rio conveyed heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family members and prayed for the departed soul to rest in peace.
The Southern Angami Public Organization (SAPO) also expressed “great shock and sadness” at the tragic crash of the army helicopter within its jurisdiction. SAPO president Zadeho Rikha and general secretary S. Kevi Hibo shared their sorrow and pain with the deceased family members and prayed that God grant them strength and solace at the time grief. They prayed for the departed soul to rest in peace.
SAPO members and volunteers had rushed to the spot and assisted in retrieving the dead bodies. SAPO covered the bodies with Angami traditional shawl as mark of respect and paid homage to the departed souls at a short function held at Viswema village entry gate.
The army has “whole-heartedly” thanked the civilian population of Viswema area for joining in the search and rescue and relief efforts and also the civil police and administrative machinery for the help rendered.
DIPR reported stated that a short condolence service was held at Viswema village junction before the bodies were taken to Zakhama late evening. During the short stop at Viswema, floral tributes were paid to the deceased by the Angami Public Organization, Angami Students’ Union, Southern Angami Public Organization and Viswema Village Council. The bodies were sent to Naga Hospital Kohima for post mortem while the Army has ordered a Court of Inquiry into the mishap, statement from the media officer HQ 3 Corps said.
Sources said a function would be held at the Zakhama garrison Thursday after which the bodies would be taken to Rangapahar cantonment.

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