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Four dead in helicopter crash in India

NEW DELHI (AFP): At least four people were killed and three others went missing Saturday after a civilian helicopter carrying them crashed in India’s western state of Maharashtra, officials said.

The chopper with seven people on board went missing Saturday, minutes after take-off from the Juhu airport in Mumbai, the capital city of Maharashtra.

“Our rescue teams have recovered four bodies and the search for others is underway,” a spokesman for the Indian Coast Guard said.

Officials said the Pawan Hans helicopter carrying seven persons, five officials from oil and natural gas corporation (ONGC) and two pilots, took off at 10:20 a.m. local time and lost communication with the air traffic control (ATC) Mumbai after 15 minutes.

Following the loss of contact with the ATC, the Indian Coast Guard officials and the Navy pressed in rescue teams to search for the missing chopper.

The chopper was thought to be flying around 55 km off the Mumbai shoreline when it lost communication. “Five ships and two aircrafts are engaged in extensive search operation in the area for the missing ones in the ill-fated aircraft,” the spokesman said.

Authorities have also located the debris of the crashed chopper. Of the four bodies recovered so far, one has been identified as that of Pankaj Garg, a top official of ONGC.

The helicopter was flying to the ONGC’s Bombay High oilfields, 175 km northwest of Mumbai. The cause of helicopter crash was not immediately known.

Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited is a government-owned company and provides chopper services for off-shore operations, connecting inaccessible areas, VIP transportation, pilgrim services and promotion of tourism.

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