A pall of gloom has descended at the residence of Wing Commander Hanumanth Rao Sarathi, killed in the Indian Air Force (IAF) air accident on Saturday.
Two IAF aircraft on Saturday were involved in an accident in the skies over Madhya Pradesh. While two pilots of one aircraft ejected safely, one pilot of the second aircraft —Sarathi— was killed.
Sarathi's body is likely to be brought here at his home in Ganeshapur in Karnataka's Belagavi on Sunday, according to family sources.
Sarathi was an instructor at Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment (TAC-DE) in Madhya Pradesh's Gwalior. The two planes had taken off from the Gwalior air base and had crashed in nearby Morena district.
The family members and relatives were inconsolable with the untimely demise of Sarath, a father of a three-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son.
Mid-air collission suspected: Expert
Two fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force —a Sukhoi-30MKI and a Mirage-2000— crashed during a training mission in Madhya Pradesh's Morena on Saturday.
While the two pilots of the Sukhoi ejected safely, the pilot of the Mirage —Wing Commander Hanumanth Rao Sarathi— died in the accident.
The IAF in a brief statement confirmed the accident and named Sarathi as the deceased pilot.
The IAF said, "Two fighter aircraft of IAF were involved in an accident near Gwalior today morning. The aircraft were on routine operational flying training mission. One of the three pilots involved sustained fatal injuries. An inquiry has been ordered to determine the cause of the accident.
"The IAF deeply regrets to inform that Wg Cdr Hanumanth Rao Sarathi suffered fatal injuries during the accident. All air warriors and the fraternity stand strongly with the bereaved family."
Though the IAF has not spoken on the nature of the accident, experts suspect it could have been a mid-air collission.
Aviation historian Anchit Gupta tweeted that mid-air collisions (MAC) are not that uncommon and at least 64 aircraft and 39 pilots have been lost in MAC in the last more than 70 years in India.
Gupta said the country lost 11 Mig-21 aircraft in MAC, while the numbers for the Hunter and Jaguar aircraft are eight and five respectively.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh briefed
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari briefed Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on the crash.
"Deeply anguished by the loss of brave air warrior, Wg Cdr Hanumanth Rao Sarathi, who suffered fatal injuries during an accident near Gwalior. My deepest condolences to his bereaved family. We stand by his family in this difficult hour," the defence minister said on Twitter.
The officials said the recovery of the flight data recorders of the two aircraft would throw some light on what led to the crash.
Morena Collector Ankit Asthana said the debris of both the aircraft fell in the Pahargarh area of the district. Some debris also fell in Rajasthan's Bharatpur, which borders Madhya Pradesh, he added.
Locals were the first to reach the site where the debris from one of the aircraft fell, police in Bharatpur had said.
(With PTI inputs)