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Aug 30, 2012 at 05:23pm IST

Gujarat: 9 dead as two IAF MI-17 helicopters collide mid-air in Jamnagar

Ahmedabad: At least nine Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel have been killed in a mid-air collision of two MI-17 helicopters near Jamnagar Air Force Station in Gujarat. The tragic accident in which five officers and four other ranks lost their lives took place at around 12:05 pm on Thursday; just five minutes after the helicopters had taken off from the Jamnagar Air Force station for a routine training sortie.

The collision took place near a firing range in Sarmat village which is about 20 kms from the Air Force Station and 15 kms from Jamnagar town. After the collision one of the helicopters caught fire.

The Air Force has ordered an inquiry but sources say a mid air collision is rare and the investigators will have to ascertain if standard operating procedures were violated by the pilots. Sources say if there was a deviation from standard operating procedures, then it would be a serious case of cockpit indiscipline.

According to villagers, who witnessed the accident, the two helicopters were flying very close to each other when the upper rotors of one aircraft hit the other causing the collision. The tail rotor of one of the choppers also snapped, eyewitnesses said.

Air Force personnel and police reached the crash site along with Jamnagar municipal corporation fire brigade, and doused the burning wreckage.

An IAF spokesperson in New Delhi said that a court of inquiry has been ordered to determine the reasons behind the crash. The names of the officers and airmen killed have not been disclosed by IAF.