TN man among nine IAF personnel killed in collision

All nine air force personnel, including a junior warrant officer belonging to Thanjavur, were killed on Thursday when two MI-17 helicopters collided mid- air shortly after take-off from an airbase in Jamnagar.

“Nine IAF personnel — five officers and four other ranks — were killed in the crash near Sarmat firing range, 15 km from Jamnagar city,” an IAF spokesperson said in Delhi.

The dead included three wing commanders, a squadron leader and a flight lieutenant, he said.

The Russian-made choppers were on a training sortie and the collision occurred about five minutes after they took off at 12 noon.

Asked why the choppers were flying so close, the spokesperson said the training mission required such flying. IAF officers, police officials and Jamnagar municipal corporation fire brigade reached the spot shortly after the crash. Fire brigade personnel doused the burning wreckage.

The spokesperson said a court of inquiry has been ordered to determine the reasons for the collision. Defence minister A.K. Antony, expressing deep sorrow over the tragic incident, conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the families.

Junior warrant officer Murugan (39) was sent with his unit to Sarmat range only last month for practice.

Patriotic Murugan joined IAF after school

A pall of gloom descended on Palaniappa Nagar on Nanjikottai road here following the death of the 39-year-old son of the soil, Murugan, serving as junior warrant officer in Indian Air Force, in a helicopter collision in Gujarat on Thursday.

Murugan was one of the nine IAF personnel killed as two Mi 17 helicopters collided mid-air and crashed during practice for a bombing mission at Sarmat range, in Jamnagar.

Son of Ramalingam, a retired overseer of the Adi Dravidar welfare department, and resident of Palaniappa Nagar on Nanjikottai road, Murugan joined the IAF some 20 years ago, soon after completing his Plus-2 at Kalyanasundaram higher secondary school in Thanjavur. Ramalingam died in 2006.

Being promoted as junior warrant officer, Murugan originally served in Mohanwada, in Odisha.

He and his unit were sent to Sarmat range, in Jamnagar, only last month for practice. Murugan got married in 1997 and is survived by his wife Sivakamasundari and two sons, Jayaprakash (11) and Akash Karthik (10).

He and his family live in the IAF quarters of Mohanwada.

Born as the fourth child to his parents, Murugan has two brothers, Mohanraj and Jayakumar, and two sisters, Sumathi and Vijayalakshmi. “My brother was patriotic and loved India very much.

“He wanted to serve the nation. That is why he joined the IAF soon after completing his higher secondary course. He joined aeronautical engineering course in a college in Chennai.

However, he discontinued the course in the first year itself and joined the IAF,” says Sumathi in a choked voice and with tears welling in her eyes.

Murugan, who was in the habit of visiting his house in Thanjavur along with his family every year, was here in May and left for work in the last week of June, Sumathi said.

Sumathi works in the head post office in Thanjavur and resides in the Mariammankoil area of Thanjavur while the other sister, Vijayalakshmi, lives in Chennai.

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