Three Indian Army officers died when a helicopter on a routine sortie crashed at Sukna in Darjeeling district this morning.
A jawan, who too was in the Cheetah chopper, suffered serious injuries in the crash close to the helipad of the Trishakti Corps in Sukna, 10km from Siliguri.
"Around 11.20am today, an army helicopter crashed while approaching to land at the Sukna Military Station. Three officers were injured fatally and one jawan has been critically wounded in the accident. The Cheetah helicopter had gone on an operational reconnaissance of the forward areas. A court of inquiry has been ordered by the army authorities to ascertain the cause of the incident," the army said in a media release this evening.
Sources said that today morning, two choppers of the Army Aviation Corps had taken off from Sukna to survey the bordering areas as part of a routine exercise.
One of the helicopters crashed, apparently because of a snag, while returning.
The deceased have been identified as Major Sanjeev Lathar, who was the pilot, Major Arvind Bazala, the co-pilot, and Lt Col Rajneesh Kumar.
The injured jawan has been admitted to the army hospital in Bengdubi, near Bagdogra.
The army has started a probe. Police and officials from multiple intelligence agencies visited Sukna to gather information on the crash.
The Cheetah is a single-engine helicopter and is of 1970s vintage and derived from the French Alouette.
A Darjeeling police officer said: "Our officers had been to Sukna after the incident. But we are yet to get more details. As of now, only the basic information is available with us."
This evening, chief minister Mamata Banerjee expressed condolences to the families of the deceased.
"Saddened at the death of 3 army officers in Sukna due to tragic chopper crash. Words are never enough. My condolences to bereaved families," she tweeted.
This is the first time in five years that an army helicopter has crashed in north Bengal. On April 21, 2011, a Dhruv helicopter carrying two majors and two technical assistants, had crashed in north Sikkim close to the India-China border after taking off from the Sevoke air force station killing all four.
Multiple MiG crashes have, however, been reported in the region.(TT)