Sad story of helicopter, plane crashes and politicians

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Dorjee Khandu
New Delhi, May 5: Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu's death in a helicopter crash adds another sad chapter to the story of politicians who have died in chopper and airplane accidents in the country over the past several decades.

The tragedy is a grim reminder of the deaths in aerial crashes involving Indian politicians - Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, Sanjay Gandhi, Madhavrao Scindia, G M C Balayogi, S Mohan Kumaramangalam, O P Jindal, Surendra Singh, Dera Natung and C Sangma.

Some also had a narrow escape in aerial accidents in a country where helicopters are frequently used to ferry VIPs and where helicopter is a major mode of transport in the North East.

The previous air accident which claimed the life of a politician was the crash of a helicopter in which Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy was on board.

The chopper of the senior Congress leader, popularly known as YSR, crashed in a forest while flying in a Bell 430 to Chitoor district in Andhra Pradesh. His body was traced 27 hours after the helicopter went missing on Sep 3, 2009.

Perhaps one of the first Indian political leaders to die in a plane crash was freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose - on Aug 18, 1945 in present day Taiwan. But many insist to this day that he survived.

Sanjay Gandhi, the younger son of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was killed when a glider he was flying crashed soon after taking off from the Safdarjung airport in Delhi on Jun 23, 1980.

Madhavrao Scindia, a senior Congress leader and a former union cabinet minister, was killed in a Cessna aircraft crash on Sep 30, 2001 while travelling to Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh to address a public rally.

Lok Sabha Speaker and Telugu Desam leader G M C Balayogi died in a chopper crash on Mar 3, 2002 in Andhra Pradesh.

Balayogi was in a Bell 206 helicopter. An official probe ruled that the crash was caused when the pilot, unable to continue due to poor visibility, mistakenly landed on a pond thinking it was a land surface.

Mohan Kumaramangalam, from the Congress, died in an Indian Airlines plane crash in 1973 near New Delhi.

O P Jindal, Haryana's then power minister and a noted industrialist, and state agriculture minister Surendra Singh were killed when the chopper carrying them developed a technical snag and went down near Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh on Mar 31, 2005.

Arunachal Pradesh education minister Natung was killed in a helicopter crash in May 2001. Sangma, the then Meghalaya community development minister, three legislators and six others were killed in a helicopter crash in Sep 2004.

Punjab governor Surendra Nath and nine members of his family were killed when the government's Super-King aircraft crashed into high mountains in bad weather on Jul 9, 1994 in Himachal Pradesh. Nath was then acting Himachal governor also.

But many were lucky.

Former Prime Minister Morarji Desai famously escaped when his special aircraft crashed in Assam in Nov 1977. P K Thungon, who was the then Arunachal Pradesh chief minister and was accompanying him, also survived.

PTI

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