Mumbai: After five days of intense search and rescue operations, the wreckage of the Pawan Hans Dauphin N3 helicopter that crashed off the coast of Mumbai was located, identified and retrieved on Monday night. The aircraft went down with two pilots on board, and the body of one of them was found in the cockpit section of the wreckage.

On board the ill-fated craft was Capt Eeso Samuel, one of the most experienced helicopter pilots in the world, with about 20,000 hours of flying experience, and Capt T K Guha. The pilots were doing a training sortie, and visibility and weather were not bad when the four-year-old helicopter mysteriously crashed and came to rest on the seabed, 75m deep.

The search is on to find the other occupant. The helicopter’s tail section was recovered around 9pm, a source said. This is the section that holds the black boxes, cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, critical for the crash investigation. “Most of the wreckage will be recovered by Tuesday morning,” the source said.

The recovered body, which is yet to be identified, will be taken to Yellow Gate, Carnac Bunder, on Tuesday morning, from where it will be sent for autopsy and identification, said Sanjay Kumar, general manager (western region) Pawan Hans. A Coast Guard spokesperson said, “Search and recovery of the remaining parts and a pilot are in progress.” Signals from the locator beacon and sonar inputs were analysed and diving was undertaken in various locations for four days, he added. “Finally, on the input of the multi-service vessel, Fugro Mapper, diving by the support vessel, Samudra Sevak, led to the sighting of the ill-fated helicopter wreckage,” the spokesperson said.

The Dauphin crashed around 7.15 last Wednesday. A distress signal from equipment on board was picked up around 7.15pm last Wednesday by a Coast Guard Dornier aircraft on routine surveillance off the Mumbai coast. The Coast Guard aircraft proceeded towards the position and simultaneously relayed the information to vessels in the area. Search and rescue operations are being carried out in an operation coordinated by the Coast Guard Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC, Mumbai), with resources from the Navy, Coast Guard, ONGC, Pawan Hans and resource agencies of ONGC, for five days.

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Source: TOI-MUM