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Lt-Col, Major die in copter crash
Tribune News Service

Shimla, May 24
Both pilots were killed on the spot when a Cheetah helicopter of the Indian Army crashed near Sungra in Kinnaur district this morning.

A senior Army official said that the Army Aviation Corpsí Cheetah helicopter on a reconnaissance mission had taken off from Jalandhar in Punjab but lost contact with the air traffic control (ATC) around 10.50 a.m.

Before losing control the Brigade Commander of 36 Sector had a round of a few helipads in the border district. The helicopter lost control after it was coming from the Pooh side after leaving the Brigade Commander at the Brigade headquarters, said the Army official.

The accident occurred when aircraft of the 661 Army Aviation Squadron( Z-3322) got entangled in a span( single cable ropeway with a trolley used for transportation across the rivers and khads). According to eyewitnesses, the helicopter went out of control after the rotor hit the cable and crashed against the hill on the right bank of the Sutlej. It caught fire and virtually exploded, attracting the attention of a havildar on duty at the army helipad who informed the authorities.

Lt-Col Praveen D. Kunah (39) and Maj Puneet Karol (31),who were on board, died on the spot. The army and police authorities reached the spot within minutes and recovered the partially burnt bodies of the two pilots, which were taken to Bhabhanagar for a post- mortem. After a post-mortem, the bodies of the pilots were handed over to the Army authorities by the civil administration.

Meanwhile, the Army has marked an inquiry into the accident, apart from the investigation being initiated by the local police.

The ill-fated aircraft took off from Jalandhar for its routine monthly sortie. It successfully completed two sorties over the Karcham area to land at Sungra. However, it hit the span within minutes after taking off for the third sortie and crashed.

The spans which are the lifelines for tribal people in the interior areas have in recent years become a major hazard for helicopters in the hills. A number such mishaps occurred in the region over the past decade.

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