Helicopter Crashes Offshore Carrying ONGC Employees

At least 25 people are missing after a helicopter carrying 29 ONGC staff crashed into the Arabian sea, 100 kilometers offshore Mumbai, India on Monday.

Three people were rescued, said officials. One body has been discovered so far and was being flown to Mumbai.

The Russian-made MI-172 chopper, owned by private firm Mesco, was ferrying the ONGC staff from the drilling rig Sagar Kiran to Sagar Jyoti when it crashed, ONGC officials said. There were engineers and officials on board who were returning after the 8:00 am shift to the Juhe base. The accident occurred at 12:15 hrs in Neelam oil field area. The coast guard said more lives could have been saved if the helicopter had managed to stay afloat after coming down in 70 meters of water. Natasha Singh of Mesco, told the Aaj Tak television that the helicopter crashed soon after take off because it did not gain sufficient altitude at take-off.

Officials said Navy choppers have already reached the accident site while ONGC's own multi-purpose vessels have been mobilized for rescue efforts. Petroleum Minister Ram Naik said navy and coastguard were helping in the rescue operation.

Mr. Naik said his ministery would ask the Civil Aviation Ministry for an inquiry into the crash. ONGC Director (offshore) V K Sharma said that three supply vessels and two Navy helicopters had reached the accident site and rescue efforts were underway. "The weather is hampering rescue efforts," he said adding the possibility of survivors looked grim. He could not say what possibly might have caused the accident.

The helicopter was chartered from Mesco Airlines as ONGC's regular helicopter service provided by Pawan Hans was unavailable.