Recalling two tragedies

Six persons were killed in 1963 crash and four in 1997

It is not the first time a high ranking officer of the Defence Services has died in an air crash in India.

Fifty-eight years ago, five senior officers of the Army and Air Force were killed when a helicopter of the Air Force crashed in Gulpur near Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir around noon on November 22, 1963, according to materials provided by The Hindu Archives.

Six killed

A news item, published by The Hindu on the front page of November 23, 1963, stated that Lt. Gen. Daulat Singh, General Officer Commanding in Chief, Western Command, Air Vice-Marshal E. W. Pinto, Air Officer Commanding, Western Air Command, Lt. General Bikram Singh, Corps Commander, Western Command, Major-General, N.K.D. Nanavati and Brigardier Siri Ram Uberoi, were the five officers who were on their way to outposts near Poonch. Flt. Lieut. S. S. Sodhi, the pilot of the ill-fated helicopter, also died in the crash.

At that time too, Parliament was in session.

As soon as the news was out, the then Defence Minister Y.B. Chavan informed the Lok Sabha of the accident.

Three months later, the court of inquiry, which went into the crash, attributed the accident to the helicopter hitting telephone wires.

Another accident involving a high dignitary was the one in the Lungar sector, Tawang district of Arunchal Pradesh, on November 14, 1997 in which the then Union Minister of State for Defence, N.V.N. Somu, and three members of the forces including a Major General died. Somu was also the president of The Hindu Office and National Press Employees Union since 1969.

The wreckage of the helicopter and the bodies of the four victims were found at an altitude of more than 4,000 metres in a snow-bound area.

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