NEW DELHI: Two navy helicopter crew members were on Tuesday named to receive Naosena Medal for gallantry for carrying out a daring rescue of sailors of a naval submarine who were washed overboard in a freak mishap 100 km off Mumbai in August last year.
Commander Naveen Thapa, a senior pilot of Seaking 42B helicopter, and his aircrewman Petty Officer Airman Bijender, a naval diver, were the two named among the list of gallantry medal awardees by the President, Ms Pratibha Patil here.
On Aug 30 last, the helicopter crew got orders to carry out a search and rescue at their base INS Shikra following the submarine mishap, when the sailors were washed overboard INS Shankush while carrying out a repair on its hull.
The navy had lost one of its officers Lt Cdr Firdosh Mogul, the executive officer of INS Shankush, in the submarine mishap.
Despite the weather being adverse and visibility poor due to heavy rains and gusty winds over 60kmph, the aircrew from naval air squadron INAS 330 flew the Seaking helicopter and rescued three personnel.
“The adverse weather conditions posed multiple challenges, first to fly and safely navigate through the heavy turbulent weather and locate the survivors in poor visibility conditions. Second, to undertake rescue operations in heavy seas with a strong swell and waves plummeting all around the survivors,” their citation for the Naosena Medal said.
While Cdr Naveen Thapa used his flying skills to accurately keep the helicopter positioned over the survivors in the heavy seas, Aircrewman Bijender was in the water battling the seas to help each survivor wear the rescue strop and get winched up to the helicopter.
“The crew of the aircraft displayed highest standards of skill and courage to effect a timely rescue of three survivors with due regard to aircraft safety. That the aircraft got airborne and reached the sight of the survivors at a distance of over 100 km within 50 minutes of receiving the rescue call reflected the high standards of professionalism and alacrity in the Indian Navy,” according to the citation. Cdr Naveen Thapa is a highly qualified Master Green-rated pilot with over 3,000 hours of flying experience. Petty Officer Bijender is an experienced air crewman diver.
Air crewmen divers are a cadre of divers specially trained and qualified to jump into water from a hovering helicopter and effect rescue of survivors in water by helping them wear the rescue strop, an extremely challenging operation in rough seas.