The chopper burst into flames close to Garud Chatti and Jungle Chatti, Rudraprayag District Disaster Management Officer Nandan Singh said. The chopper – Bell 407 (VT-RPN) – operated by Aryan Aviation.
Among the victims were three people from Tamil Nadu – identified as Prem Kumar Vanchinathan, 63, his wife Sujatha Premkumar, 56, from Santham Colony, Thirumangalam, and her cousin Kala Ramesh, 55, of Balakrishna Street, Mylapore.
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The trio left Chennai on October 12 on a pilgrim tour that was organised by a private operator from Bengaluru.
According to the Hindustan Times, Sujatha, Prem Kumar and Kala had boarded the helicopter. Kala’s husband Ramesh drove to Kedarnath and survived.
Two Gujarat sisters – Kriti Barad and her cousin Urvi Barad – were also among the dead. Another victim was Purva Ramanuj (26) who was a resident of Sihor taluka in Bhavnagar district.
Kriti and Urvi left Bhavnagar in Gujarat on October 14. Kriti was an employee of a private company, Urvi was preparing for competitive examinations, their family members said.
The pilot, identified as Captain Anil Singh, also died in the crash. For close to 15 years, Singh had been an offshore pilot, flying multi-engine Dauphin N-3 aircraft to Bombay High.
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“He joined Aryan Aviation in September, about a month ago where he began flying the single-engine Bell407. He was primarily an offshore pilot. The question to be asked is what kind of recurrence training was given to make him hill-flying proficient,” said an industry expert.
“He was an Army pilot and so he would have flown in the hills, but that was in the early stages of his career. Flying over the sea in a multi-engine helicopter and flying over hilly terrain on a single-engine helicopter are two very different kinds of operations that demand some specifically different skill sets,” he added.