Arunachal Chief Minister safe, lands in Bhutan

Itanagar: Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, whose helicopter was feared missing after take off from Tawang, is safe after the chopper made an emergency landing in a place in Bhutan.

The Chief Minister’s office said that Mr. Khandu’s helicopter had to make an emergency landing due to technical snag near Tawang but inside Bhutanese territory.

Two other passengers accompanying the Chief Minister and two crew members of the Pawan Hans Eurocopter B3 craft are also safe, the CM’s office said.

Defence sources in Kolkata said the helicopter landed in Daporijo.

The other passengers are Lamu, a relative of the Chief Minister, his security officer Choddak, Captain Babbar and Captain Manik.

Mr. Khandu had taken off from Tawang at 9.56 a.m. and was to land at Itanagar at 11.30 a.m. by the chartered Pawan Hans helicopter. Tawang is about 200 km from Itanagar.

The chopper was last in communication with the base when it was overflying Sela Pass, 20 minutes after taking off from Tawang, and all communications were lost after that.

With the losing of communication, there was fear all around that the chopper could have met with some accident.

Army and the Indian Air Force were alerted and helicopters were pressed into service for search and rescue operations in Sela Pass area.

Defence Ministry spokesman in Kolkata Wing Commander Mahesh Upasani said despite inclement weather, two Cheetah helicopters were pressed into service from Tezpur in Assam for search and rescue operations.

The request for help reached the air force at 12.30 p.m. and the two helicopters took off within 40 minutes.

Mr. Khandu, who had served in the intelligence wing of the Indian Army, was sworn on April 9, 2007 as the fifth Chief Minister of the State, replacing Gegong Apang.

On April 19, a Pawan Hans helicopter crashed in the mountains of Tawang, bordering Tibet, killing all 17 people on board. The helicopter crashed not far away from the helipad and the DGCA had found that proper fire-fighting facilities could have saved lives.

In the other incident, an Army helicopter crashed near Gangtok killing four occupants on board.