Coonoor helicopter mishap: 'One of the injured men asked for water', recount eyewitnesses
With chills running down his spine, an eyewitness immediately called his neighbour, who alerted the police and by then, eight men who live nearby headed to the crash site.
COONOOR: With gloom surrounding the vicinity of Coonoor, where the IAF helicopter carrying Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife, and 12 others crashed on Wednesday, eyewitnesses recounted hearing a loud thud and seeing thick smoke, further reducing visibility amid the mist.
"It was around noon when I heard the sound. I rushed outside my house and saw a helicopter that had got tangled in tree branches falling to the ground with fire blazing. I also heard a few people screaming," P Chandhirakumar, an eyewitness at Nanjappachatiram in Vandicholai panchayat near Coonoor said.
With chills running down his spine, Chandhirakumar immediately called his neighbour Sivakumar, who alerted the police. By then, eight men who live nearby headed to the crash site.
"I couldn't see much because of the smoke. The terrain made it tough to climb and reach the spot of the crash. Outside the chopper, I saw two injured men lying on the ground. I suspect they jumped out of the helicopter, knowing it was going to crash. Their clothes were burnt and their faces couldn't be identified either," said A Sivakumar (45), another eyewitness.
He then told one of the two injured men not to worry as they would offer help. "While I was talking to one of them, he asked me for pani (water). Only later, while watching the news, I learned that a top defence official was among the victims.
ALSO WATCH | Bipin Rawat Aircraft Crash: Indian Airforce under scanner as 'safest' chopper plunges to tragedy
Sivakumar said they used woolen blankets to carry these two people to the main road, which was nearly 500 m away, as the spot is inaccessible to vehicles. And soon, fire and rescue services personnel arrived. Sivakumar also recalled seeing another victim lying near the helicopter.
S Das (62), who lives nearby, said the temperature was high in the area, and the locals were clueless about what to do. "We heard the sound of tree branches breaking, one person screaming for help, and what sounded like a cylinder bursting," he added.
Another resident, Shankar, said, "The chopper crashed just 2 m from my house. Luckily, my children and I were out of town. Similarly, three houses near the burnt chopper had no occupants." Following the incident, the police restricted the entry of the public, except residents of the area, from going within a 500 m radius of the accident spot as the IAF was collecting parts of the chopper.