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Thrusday, July 09, 2009
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Helicopter accident near the Holy Cave of Shri Amarnathji
One Yatri dies, 5 including pilot injured; 3 shifted to Srinagar

Baltal, July 09 - One Amarnathji Yatri died and five others were injured when a Holy Cave bound helicopter lost height, due to technical snag, and fell down between Sangam and the Lower Camp in the periphery of the Holy Cave, early this morning.

Giving details of the mishap, the Chief Executive Officer of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) said that the Yatri, Mrs. Kalavati, wife of Kali Ram, resident of Baitul district in Madhya Pradesh, who was walking on the track at the time of the accident, was hit by the roter and succumbed to her injuries.

The pilot of the helicopter and four passengers were injured. They were brought to Baltal where the condition of the two Yatris, Shri O P Aggarwal and Shri Tej Pal Singh (both residents of U.P.) was reported to be stable. Two other Yatris, Shri Rajesh Kumar, his wife, Smt. Vandana (from Kolkatta) and the pilot of the Himalayan Heli Services Private Limited, Captain Parminder Singh, were heli-lifted in 3 helicopters to Sher-e-Kashmir Institue of Medical Sciences, Soura, Srinagar, for specialized treatment.

The CEO elaborated that this morning, at around 7.20 A.M., a helicopter operated by M/S Himalayan Heli Services having four passengers on board, apart from the Pilot, heading towards the Holy Cave from Baltal, could not land at the helipad at the Holy Cave and in the process lost height around 100 meters away from the lower Camp towards Sangam. The cause of the incident will be investigated by a team, comprising Deputy Director Air Safety and Assistant Director Air Safety, being deputed by the Director General Civil Aviation, New Delhi. The team is likely to reach Srinagar in the afternoon and is scheduled to visit the site of the incident later in the day for investigation.
In the incident, one lady namely Mrs. Kalavati W/O Shri Kali Ram, resident of Baitul (M.P.), who was reportedly walking towards the Holy Cave on the lower track from Sangam, was hit by the helicopter and died. Her body has been brought down to Baltal and the Shrine Board is making all arrangements, at its cost, for transportation of the body to her native place along with her husband, son and the daughter, who were accompanying her to the Yatra.

In the incident, apart from the Pilot/Captain, Capt. Parminder Singh, four passengers who were traveling in the aircraft, Shri Om Aggarwal and Shri Tej Paul Singh, both from U.P. and Shri Rajesh and Smt. Vandana, residents of Kolkatta, were injured. They were immediately evacuated to Baltal. The Captain and two out of the four injured passengers namely Shri Rajesh and Smt. Vandana, have further been shifted by helicopters to SKIMS Srinagar where they are undergoing treatment.

The site of incident has been cordoned off. The Yatra is progressing smoothly both at the Holy Cave and on both the Pahalgam and Baltal routes.
While expressing profound sorrow and shock over the incident, the Chairman of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board and the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr N N Vohra, has directed the Chief Executive Officer of the Board to review all existing arrangements relating to the operation of helicopter services, including the site of the existing helipad close to the Holy Cave, in consultation with experts from the Civil Aviation Department of the State Government for recommending all required measures for ensuring the complete safety and security of the pilgrims availing the helicopter service.

Meanwhile, a Spokesperson of the Board said that the pilgrimage to the Holy Cave Shrine of Shri Amarnathji is progressing smoothly on both the Pahalgam and Baltal tracks. He said that 10638 Yatris performed darshan at the Holy Cave Shrine yesterday; 4832 pilgrims left from the Nunwan Base Camp and 3123 pilgrims left from the Baltal Base Camp for the Holy Cave this morning. He said that another batch of 1652 Yatris left from Jammu for the Nunwan and Baltal Base Camps today.

Click here to read more information on Shri Amarnathji Yatra.


Even after Helicopter accident, 2 victims return to
Shri Amarnathi Shrine to perform darshan

Baltal, July 9 - Two of the five passengers traveling in the helicopter which met with an accident and fell in the Holy Cave area this morning displayed their determination by insisting on proceeding to perform darshan after receiving first aid.

According to a Spokesperson of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), Om Prakash Aggarwal and Tej Paul Singh, both from Uttar Pradesh, two of the passengers who were traveling in the helicopter which met an accident today morning, received first aid at the Baltal Base Hospital while three others, including the pilot of the ill-fated helicopter, were flown to Srinagar for specialized treatment.

After receiving treatment, one of the victims spoke on phone to a SASB official at Srinagar and gave first hand account of the accident. He also expressed the desire of having darshan at the Holy Cave.
The Spokesperson said that after disruption of the heli-services, in the wake of accident, the Baltal-Holy Cave service resumed in the afternoon. Shri Aggarwal and Shri Singh were among the early pilgrims to once again travel by helicopter to the Cave Shrine.

On returning to the Baltal Base Camp, Mr Aggarwal spoke to the Chief Executive Officer, SASB, Mr B. B. Vyas, to express his gratitude to all those who had helped him and others after their traumatic experience. It was a miraculous escape for those on board and the two Yatris again embarked on darshan to reaffirm their faith in Lord Shiva. However, in this accident, the tragic loss is suffered by Mr Kali Ram, of Amala village in District Baitul, Madhya Pradesh, and his siblings, Yogesh 19 and Reena, 20, who lost their mother, Kalawati in the mishap. Ms. Kalawati succumbed to the injuries received by the blades of the helicopter while she was walking on the track near the Lower Camp, on her way to the Holy Cave.

The Shrine Board organized the transportation of Ms. Kalavati’s body to Srinagar for onward airlift to Madhya Pradesh, after completing all the required formalities. The company which runs the helicopter which met an accident today has positioned an ambulance and a vehicle at the Bhopal Airport for taking Ms. Kalavati’s dead body and members of her bereaved family to their native village.

Click here to read more information on Shri Amarnathji Yatra.

Source: Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Department of Information, Press Note, July 09, 2009
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