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Air force helicopters collide in western India, killing 9

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BNO NEWS) -- Two Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters collided in mid-air on Thursday afternoon, killing all nine people on board both aircraft, defense officials said on Friday. The exact cause of the accident was not immediately known.

The accident happened at about 12:05 p.m. local time when two Mi-17 medium-lift utility helicopters collided near Sarmat village in Jamnagar district of western Gujarat state. The helicopters had taken off from Jamnagar airbase with a combined total of nine people on board and were participating in a routine training mission.

"There were nine personnel on board and all succumbed to injuries," a spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of Defense said on Friday. "The Defense Minister Shri AK Antony has expressed deep sorrow at the tragic incident. He has conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families."

Indian media reports indicated that the two helicopters were carrying out an air-to-ground attack exercise when the rotors of the aircraft tangled up, causing them to crash. Authorities have recovered both flight data recorders and an inquiry has been ordered to determine the exact causes.

In April 2011, seventeen people were killed and six others were seriously injured when a commercial Mi-17 helicopter crashed into a gorge while attempting to land in Tawang, a small town in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh state. The aircraft had reportedly caught fire as it was preparing to land.

And in November 2010, all twelve people aboard another air force Mi-17 helicopter were killed when the aircraft crashed about five minutes after taking off from Tawang. Defense officials at the time ruled out weather as a factor and were investigating the possibility of a technical fault.

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