Seconds after two IAF jets of the Surya Kiran team crashed mid-air at the Yelahanka Air Force station in Bengaluru on Tuesday, 19 February, the debris landed in the nearby ISRO Layout. Pedestrians, onlookers and students of the Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology, an engineering college located in the area, rushed to the spot to find out more.
Among them was Chethan Kumar BM, a 22-year-old student in his fourth year of aeronautical engineering. A video of Kumar comforting one of the injured pilots who ejected from his aircraft soon after the collision, has been flashed by TV channels since the accident was reported. In the video, shot by Kumar himself, he can be seen comforting the pilot and discussing with other bystanders how best to aid the injured. At one point, Kumar clasps the hand of the injured pilot, offering support.
Speaking to The Quint, Kumar said that he spent close to 10 minutes with the pilot before help arrived. He said that his only intention was to comfort him and make him feel better, in whatever small way he could.
The pilot is said to be stable and recovering at the Command Hospital.
In the video, Kumar can be heard asking others if someone was on the way and repeatedly asking the pilot to stay calm. Others can be heard shouting and asking for water.
"“Stay calm, stay calm. They are coming. Nothing has happened. Should we remove something? Stay calm.”" - Chethan Kumar on video talking to the pilot
Along with praises, Kumar has also come under criticism for his decision to film at the site of an accident, and record the condition of the survivors.
‘It Was Shocking. I Didn’t Expect to See Pilots There’
Kumar said that he started running, almost instinctively from where he was, when he heard the crash and saw the smoke rising.
“I just started recording to capture what had happened. I didn’t know there would be pilots there. Many of us went there and we were shocked. I just wanted him to feel better and console him. There was nothing else we could do. Just wanted to console him,” he said.
Out of the three pilots involved in the mid-air crash, one was killed. The deceased pilot has been identified as Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi. The two others who ejected safely have been identified as Wing Commander Vijay Shelke and Squadron Leader Tejeshwar Singh.
The aircraft collided while performing the mirror pass or Calypso pass manoeuvre – which is where one of the aircraft fly on top of the other but inverted. They were preparing for their final performance during the Aero India show, that starts from Wednesday, 20 February.
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