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Dhruv co-pilot dies in pre-aero show crash
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 2
The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) acrobatic team “Sarang” suffered a setback following a crash during rehearsals for the forthcoming Aero India show resulting in the death of a co-pilot of a Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH) today morning.

The crash, which occurred at 9.45 am, at the Yelahanka Air Force Station here, resulted in head injuries to both the co-pilot Sq Ld Priye Sharma and the Captain Wg Cdr V Jetley. Both were taken to the IAF’s Command hospital here where Sq Ld Priye Sharma (32) succumbed to his injuries two hours later. Wing Commander Jetley is under observation for 72 hours.

Sq Ld Priye Sharma is married and hails from Patna in Bihar. An IAF spokesaman, Wg Cdr Raghunathan told TNS that the accident occurred when the helicopter, being flown by both the pilots, lost height suddenly. He said no other copter was involved in the accident and that the team was conducting a normal practice session prior to the acrobatic display scheduled during the Aero India show, which starts on February 7.

The IAF spokesman said the cause of the crash could not be ascertained till now and added that a court of inquiry had been formed to look into the accident. This is the first time that there has been a fatal crash of the ALH during an acrobatic session.

Meanwhile, the crash has raised questions whether the Sarang team will put up a display at the Aero India show. Sources said the team could be withdrawn from the aero show. However, the IAF spokesman said it was too early to comment on this right now and that an appropriate decision would be taken in Delhi soon.

Sarang is the helicopter formation display team of the IAF, one of only three in the world, the others being two British teams; the Blue Eagles of the Army Air Corps and the Black Cats of the Royal Navy. The team flies three HAL Dhruvs. The team was formed in October 2003 and their first public performance was at the Asian Aerospace Show, Singapore, 2004. Most of the Sarang pilots are former Siachen pilots who have been flying in and around the high-altitude and arduous areas of Leh.

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