PANANGAD: “As I helped this man to exit from the helicopter, he told me that he had a heavy backache. Immediately, I asked my wife to bring a chair from our home. He sat on the chair in the marshy plot till the police officers arrived,” Rajesh K, the first person to arrive at the site where the chopper belly-landed at Panangad early on Sunday.
Rajesh, in his early 40s, said only later, he was told that the person he helped was none other than M A Yusuffali, who presides over $7.4-billion Lulu global hypermarket chain. “While helping those caught inside in the chopper to exit, I didn’t know it was him. He sat wearing a PPE kit in the heavy drizzle,” said Rajesh, a head-load worker at Nettur near Panangad. “Had anything bad happened to him, it would have been a big pain for all of us. Thankfully, he is safe and without any injuries,” he said, adding all other passengers were also wearing PPE kits.
Earlier, a heavy sound shook residents of Panangad on Sunday morning. As they came out of their houses, they saw a helicopter coming down fast and hitting the small mashy field with a thud. Rajesh was draining out flood water in his courtyard along with wife Biji, a senior civil police officer at Panangad police station, following heavy rain in the morning. “We heard the sound of the helicopter and it suddenly came down with an earsplitting sound around 8.30am. In the impact, water entered the chopper to almost half of its height,” he said.
Rajesh said he reached the spot holding an umbrella when the rotor blades stopped rotating. “One of the pilots was seen attempting to open the door. Six persons were inside and one of the pilots spoke in Hindi,” he said. Rajesh, whose house was located in an adjacent plot, helped them come out. “Soon, a vehicle of Panangad police arrived as my wife alerted the station and all persons who were travelling the helicopter were shifted to the hospital,” he added.Yusuff Ali, wife Shabira, private secretaries Harish, Shihab and Shafi and pilots Ashok and Shivaprasad were on board.
Prameela, a homemaker, couldn’t believe her eyes as the chopper came down suddenly. “We all were shocked after hearing the earsplitting sound. It was raining heavily and we later joined Rajesh, my relative, in helping the passengers come out,” said Prameela.
According to the police, technical glitches and bad weather forced the pilot to belly-land the chopper as a precautionary measure. The expertise of the pilot in handling the tough situation helped him land in the marshy field in a residential area. “A preliminary inquiry revealed that the chopper made emergency landing following technical issues. However, the civil aviation officials will carry out a detailed investigation,” said Kochi City DCP P N Ramesh Kumar, who visited the spot.Panangad Inspector of Police M R Suresh who also visited the spot said the chopper will be shifted after the examination.