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AI pilot, co-pilot grounded after techie’s death in freak accident

The pilot and co-pilot of an Air India plane involved in Wenesday’s freak accident at the Mumbai airport, where a technician died after getting sucked into the engine, have been grounded even as the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has launched a probe into the incident.

Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani, who rushed to Mumbai on Thursday morning for an on-the-spot inquiry, said: “Initially, it seems that there was some communication gap.” He, however, refused to go into the details of what could have possibly caused the mishap described as a “serious accident.”

The rare mishap had occurred during push back for departure when the co-pilot of Mumbai-Hyderabad flight 619 allegedly mistook a signal for starting the engine and the technician Ravi Subramanian, who was standing close, got sucked into it at bay 28 of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport around 8.40 pm.

The pilot and the co-pilot of the Airbus A320 plane have been derostered after the mishap, a senior Air India official said.

Lohani announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh and a job in the airline to a family member of service engineer Subramanian.

“This is a serious accident and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau has taken up the probe,” a senior civil aviation ministry official said.

The AAIB is a dedicated entity to investigate accidents, functions under the Civil Aviation Ministry. Manned by employees of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the bureau was carved out of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in 2012.

An aircraft parked in a bay cannot reverse on its own and has to be pulled by a tow vehicle. It was during the push back that the engine of the plane got started, violently pulling into its innards Subramanian, who was standing dangerously close. His body was badly mutiliated and could not be sent for post-mortem examination.

“We have lost a family member. An ex-gratia amount of Rs 5 lakh has been given to the family. We have also offered a job to the family of the victim,” Lohani said.

He said the funeral of Subramanian, who was in his 40s, will be held on Friday and a two-minute silence will be observed at AI offices across the network at 11 am.

Earlier in the day, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma said a three-member committee, led by Lohani and top officials of DGCA, had rushed to Mumbai.

“It is very sad. We have lost a young engineer. A committee has been set up to investigate the incident and it has already started the probe,” Sharma said in Delhi. He, however, refused to elaborate further, saying that “it will be too premature to comment until the findings of the probe are out”.

Meanwhile, “An accidental death case has been filed at the Sahar police station in connection with the death of Subramanium,” DCP, Zone VIII, Virendra Mishra said.
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