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Expert panel blames bad weather for YSR chopper crash

Hyderabad, Feb 11 (IANS) A two-member expert committee which probed the helicopter crash that killed Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and four others last year has virtually ruled out sabotage.

The team, constituted by the state government to conduct investigations and make recommendations to prevent such disasters in future, Thursday submitted its report to Chief Minister K. Rosaiah.

The committee, in its report, said all the available evidence showed the helicopter crashed due to bad weather.

The committee comprised M.R. Reddy, retired Indian Police Service (IPS) official and expert on VIP security, and H.S. Kola, former director general of civil aviation.

Reddy told reporters that the cockpit voice recorder, which was decoded by the manufacturer in Canada, showed that the chief minister and other passengers had no conversation with the crew before the crash.

‘All evidence on record shows that the helicopter got into bad weather. The pilots were trying to lift the helicopter which was coming down drastically due to down drought but in the process hit a tree and crashed,’ he said.

Reddy, however, pointed out that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was conducting a detailed probe and it would soon come out with its finding as to whether there was any sabotage.

Both the committee members said the pilot was given full briefing by the meteorological department about the weather conditions and the ATC had also allowed the chopper to take off. ‘During monsoon weather changes, especially on hilly terrain, and in such a situation the pilot has to decide whether to fly back or go ahead,’ he said.

The committee, which found that both the engines of the chopper were working, suggested measures to improve the safety system to prevent such disasters.

Last month, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in its report to the central government had blamed the pilots for the Sep 2, 2009, disaster.

The report had said the accident occurred due to loss of control over the craft.

The government-owned Bell 430 helicopter (BT-APG), carrying the then chief minister and four others, went missing minutes after it took off from Begumpet Airport here for Chittoor district on Sep 2. A massive air search involving Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters and Sukhois failed to trace the chopper.

The bodies of YSR, as the chief minister was popularly known, and four others – including the two pilots – were found the next morning in the hills of Kurnool.

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