Mumbai, Jan 13: A Pawan Hans helicopter with seven people on board, including five ONGC employees, went missing after it took off from Juhu airport on Saturday. The Coast Guard, which was pressed into rescue and search operation, has confirmed that the debris of the chopper has been found and three bodies have been recovered. Meanwhile, the search is underway. The five ONGC passengers have been identified as Mr Sarvannan, Mr VK Babu, Mr Jose Anthony, Mr Pankaj Garg and Mr P Shrinivasan.

“1 Pawanhans Helicopter of ONGC flying from Juhu, Mumbai to ODA Offshore Development Area lost at sea this morning. Total crew on board 5 besides 2 pilots. Large scale Indian Coast Guard sear and rescue operation underway. Debris located by CG Ship and one body recovered,” Coast Guard was quoted as saying by ANI. “Two bodies identified out of four recovered at sea near debris of ONGC helicopter. 5 ships, 2 Dornier & 2 helicopters deployed for search & rescue operations,” it added. (ALSO READ – Maharashtra: Four Wrestlers of Kranti Kushti Sankul Killed in Road Accident)

Reports say, the chopper lost contact with Air Traffic Control (ATC) 30 nautical miles off Mumbai. It was last in touch with the oil rig air traffic control around 10.30 AM. (ALSO READ – Four Dead, 25 Rescued as Boat With 40 School Children Capsizes in Dahanu Near Mumbai)

The helicopter took off from Juhu at 10.20 AM and was scheduled to land at North Field of ONGC at 10.58 AM, but didn’t reach there.

Speaking to ANI on the matter, Navy spokespersons said, “ISVs deployed for patrol in area have been diverted for search & rescue along with 3 Coast Guard units already in area. Seaking 42B helicopter being launched in addition.”

Meanwhile, Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan tweeted, “Spoke to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman & requested for help from Coast Guard and other agencies in the search and rescue operations; CMDONGC has rushed to Mumbai.”

According to reports, the Pawan Hans chopper (VT PWA), with 2 pilots and 5 passenger workers hasn’t landed at the disgnated oil rig. The ONGC has alerted the Indian Coast Guard in this regard, says a The Times of India report.

The report quotes a source as saying that the pilots had changed over their radio contact to the oil rig air traffic control from Juhu air traffic control around 10.25 AM after which the chopper was in touch for about 2 minutes, i.e. upto 9 kms and since then there has been no contact with the helicopter.

The coast guard is expected to begin search and rescue operations soon, report adds. Meanwhile, Pawan Hans and ONGC have not issued a statement as of yet.