Thursday, December 09, 2021

Sulur chopper tragedy: 'Never seen anything this tragic', say Coonoor fire and rescue personnel

Coonoor: Recalling the scene of the accident that killed Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat on Wednesday, Fire and Rescue Services personnel said they had never before seen anything this tragic.

They hardly had a few minutes to rush from the Wellington airbase near Coonoor, where they were deputed in view of the official's scheduled visit, to the accident site. "The helicopter was scheduled to arrive at 12.20 pm. Then, we received a call saying it crashed," recounted C Dhanapani, a fireman attached to the Palladam fire station in Tiruppur.

After reaching the spot, the firemen had to trek up to 500 m, braving fire and smoke to recover the charred bodies of the occupants. "On reaching the spot, we saw locals trying to rescue the occupants. We were only a few metres away, but it was tough to go near the chopper. We heard what sounded like gunshots," Dhanapani said.

With the location unfavourable for vehicular movement, the fire and rescue personnel stationed the extinguisher at a distance and used a 200-metre-long pipe to douse the fire.

Dhanapani added, "We mixed foam and water to extinguish the fire. First, we rushed the men who were lying outside the helicopter, and then the third person, who had died. By the time we recovered the 11 other charred bodies, it was 3.20 pm. We couldn't identify their faces as the bodies were completely charred."

Another fireman, M Pandeeswaran said, "I have never witnessed such a tragic accident in my service in the department. Even though it was hard recovering the bodies from the chopper, we had no choice but to jump into action as they had to be recovered immediately. We carried the bodies 500 m to the main road."

The department staff brought the fire under control within an hour. Even until 9 pm, when this report was being written, Fire and Rescue Services personnel were on the ground as the body of the helicopter was still hot.

To assist the victims, a team of doctors from the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital (CMCH) and ESI Hospital rushed to Coonoor.

08/12/21 M Saravanan/New Indian Express

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