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Chopper ferrying Amarnath pilgrims crashes; 5 dead

By Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar and agencies
Last updated on: August 05, 2003 13:03 IST
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Five people, including a woman and the pilot, were killed when a helicopter ferrying pilgrims to Amarnath crashed near Srinagar Tuesday morning, an official spokesman said.

Earlier reports had put the toll at six.

The six-seater BEL 407 helicopter, which took off from Nehru Helipad for Amarnath, crashed at Ganderbal, 23 km from the capital of Jammu and Kashmir.

Five people, including the pilot, died on the spot, while one person succumbed to injuries at the Soura Medical Institute.

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The helicopter belonged to Jammu and Kashmir government and was making sorties to the Amarnath cave shrine, ferrying pilgrims.

Those killed in the crash were identified as Vineet Kasadia, Om Narayan, Mrs Sangeeta Narayan and the pilot J S Kahlon, who headed the state aviation department.

The woman pilgrim who succumbed to her injuries in the hospital has been identified as Mrs Kasadia. The condition of an injured pilgrim, Ajay Bindal, is stated to be critical.

This year the state government used the state chopper to carry pilgrims and VIPs to the holy cave shrine.

Maharastra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal visited the holy cave shrine of in the same chopper on Monday.

Kahlon had escaped thrice in chopper crashes in the state.

Sources said the weather over Ganderbal was cloudy when the chopper took off from Srinagar this morning.

The bodies have been brought down to Ganderbal by the police and sent for post-mortem.

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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar and agencies