Thiruvananthapuram: A day after LuLu group chairman and managing director M.A. Yusuff Ali had a miraculous escape when his helicopter made an emergency landing in a marshy plot of land in Kochi while travelling with his wife, accolades have poured in for the two pilots on board the Augusta Westland 109 helicopter and those on the ground who rushed to help.
The couple and two staff members were on the copter besides the pilots when inclement weather forced an emergency landing in a marshy plot of land near the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS) at Panangad in Kochi on Sunday.
The two pilots, Ashok Kumar and co-pilot K.B. Shivakumar, were hailed as heroes in local media, which praised their presence of mind and navigational skills in managing to land the copter in a small plot of land avoiding electric wires and a highway close by.
Both pilots hail from Kottayam district – Ashok Kumar is a native of Kumarakom, and Shivakumar hails from Chirakkadavu, some 40 kms away, also in Kottayam district.
Shortly after the incident, Shivakumar called his brother Shashi Kumar and informed him, saying “the running engine of the copter stopped and efforts to start the additional engine failed, forcing an emergency landing”.
Local media reported that it was Shivakumar, a former wing commander with the Indian Air Force, who had flown the copter from Italy to India. Post retirement, he had flown helicopters for several Indian VIPs before taking up the LuLu group’s assignment.
Ashok Kumar was earlier with the Indian Navy, and is now based at Aluva, reports said.
The first to rush to help were local residents Rajesh Khanna and his wife Viji, who is a civil police officer. Khanna said he walked through the marshy plot to the copter, wading through grass, and got the occupants of the copter to his home.
Meanwhile, Viji rushed to the police station nearby and informed the officials who quickly arranged transportation to a specialty hospital in Kochi.
A day after honour
The incident happened on Sunday, just the day after Yusuffali had received Abu Dhabi’s highest civilian honour.
The businessman had tweeted after receiving the award, “This is indeed a very proud and emotional moment for me. I am very happy to receive Abu Dhabi’s highest civilian award from the blessed hands of HH Sheikh @MohamedBinZayed, Crown Prince & Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
“I first arrived in Abu Dhabi 47 years ago with dreams and hopes. I faced a lot of challenges and ups and downs in my life, but, today, I have reached this stage by the grace of Almighty God & the wholehearted support from the Royal Family of UAE.
“We started our journey from Abu Dhabi and I am humbled and thankful to receive this great honor #AbuDhabiAwards”.