NEW DELHI (AFP) - Two crew members were missing on Tuesday after an Indian naval helicopter crashed into the sea off the country’s southeastern coast, sparking an air-sea rescue search, a navy spokesman said.
The military helicopter took off from the city of Visakhapatnam and lost contact with air controllers after flying 18 kilometres from its base, Commander DK Sharma told AFP in New Delhi.
“We have rescued two of the crew and are looking for the remaining two in the sea,” Sharma said. The helicopter lost contact with military air controllers in mid-afternoon. “Ships and aircraft have joined the search,” the official said.
Naval officials initially said the helicopter was of Russian design but later said the Chetak helicopter was produced in India by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. The navy said it would continue the search operation even though darkness had fallen over the area.
“The search will continue until we find the wreckage of the helicopter and the two remaining crew members,” the officer said. He said the two rescued crew members were unhurt.
Another Indian Navy official said a court of enquiry has been ordered into the crash which occurred when the helicopter was on a “routine flying mission”.
India has witnessed at least two other military helicopter crashes in the past year.
Last October, three naval personnel, including two pilots, died when their Chetak helicopter crashed while landing at Dabolim airport in Panaji, capital of the western Indian tourist state of Goa.
In August, nine Indian air force personnel were killed when two Russian-designed military helicopters collided in mid-air over a firing range in the western state of Gujarat.
India plans to buy as many as 400 helicopters, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to replace its ageing aircraft fleet.