Tarmak007 -- A bold blog on Indian defence: # 2. R.I.P.: Sarang team’s top stunt pilot dies after 4 years in coma following Dhruv crash; wife pleads with IAF for a job in school

Thursday, January 13, 2011

# 2. R.I.P.: Sarang team’s top stunt pilot dies after 4 years in coma following Dhruv crash; wife pleads with IAF for a job in school

Four years after the ill-fated crash of the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, operated by the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Sarang Aerobatic team at the Yelahanka AF Station in Bangalore, the brave-heart pilot who hung on to life fighting every injury one after the other in a state of coma, finally gave up.
Wg Cdr Vikas Jetly (43) passed away at 7:15 pm on January 11 at the Air Force Hospital, Hindon. Jetly’s co-pilot Sqn Ldr Priye Sharma had died during the crash in 2007. Jetly is survived by his wife Shalini (40) and two children.
It was on 2 Feb 2007 that a brand new Dhruv, manufactured at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s (HAL) Helicopter Complex in Bangalore, donning the mesmerizing colors of peacock, crashed at the during a normal practice sortie. The helicopter crashed after a hard left turn at low-altitude, readying itself for the show-stopper cross-over maneuver. The incident happened just 5 days before the Aero India 2007.
Jetly was immediately rushed to Command Hospital in Bangalore and for the next two-and-a-half-years, it was his home. The doctors tried everything under the Sun to bring him back to normal life. On his part, though in coma, his body launched a very silent mission, fighting every injury. His colleagues in the Sarang team remember him as an extremely brave pilot. 
EX-CO & FRIEND He was one solid chap, who cared for his juniors | "He was a solid chap. Sober. He was a man of few words. What made him different was that he always encouraged youngsters. His energy levels were very high. He was the main member of the formation flying," recalls Hari Nair, Ex-CO, Sarang Helicopter Display Team. "He was part of the Sarang team right from the beginning of the team's formation (2003). He was a Cheetah pilot, who used to operate in Leh. He was picked for the aerobatic team, purely due to his excellent flying skills. He was an extremely fit person. We will miss him for a long time to come," says Hari, who was the first CO for Sarang team and Jetly's boss.
"He was a good guy. I remember him as a very disciplined pilot, always smiling. Very friendly," says an IAF spokesperson, who had seen Jetly from very close quarters, during his initial days in IAF.
Jetly's children Sukrit & Tanisha. 
WIFE | We were hoping that he will be back for next b’day | "The Indian Air Force looked after Vikas wonderfully well all these years. They kept him alive for four years. But you couldn’t make it out as he was in a coma. I brought him to the Air Force Hospital, Hindon, on June 18, 2010. Till then, he was at the Command Hospital in Bangalore. It all happened suddenly on January 11. Between me, my father-in-law and my mother-in-law – we used to take turns to visit him. On January 11, my father-in-law came back and said Jetly had slight fever. This was normal, as he would develop fever, breathing problem now and then. The temperature shot up from 99 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The doctors put him on oxygen and managed to get things under control. But by around 7.30 pm, we got a call from the hospital and we were informed that Vikas was no more. He passed way at 7.15 pm. He suddenly developed pneumonia. It was all over. So fast,” says Shalini (40), Jetly’s wife. In medical parlance, pneumonia might have struck due to ‘prolonged recumbency.’
Their two children Sukrit (12) and Tanisha (8) are studying at the IAF School in Subroto Park. Shalini, a post-graduate in Home Science, now hopes that that the IAF will show some compassion and give her a job at the same school. Shalini was working with HAL’s Liaison Office in Houz Khas as Assistant Personnel Officer until last year. She got the job following the magnanimity of then chairman A K Baweja. “I am thankful to HAL for giving me the job, which I had to discontinue as it was really far from my house. I had a tough time in balancing between Vikas, children, home, travel and then work. I am on a leave without pay for the last one year. Now, with Vikas gone, I want to be with my children,” says Shalini.
She further tells Tarmak007 that she had met all possible IAF officials within her reach with the request of giving her a job on compassionate grounds at the Subroto Park Air Force School. “I met many, gave my resume. I told them I am willing to even teach Class-I, II. Give me some job. I am tired,” she said, weeping profusely. Shalini says if she gets this job, she would be able to commute with her kids to school and back. “I can go in the school bus. Please help me, if you can.”
Recalling her tough days, post-crash in 2007, Shalini says the doctors did every possible thing they could. “They kept him so beautifully. He was as handsome as ever. My kids use to sing poems, read stories for him. He used to open his eyes and sigh deeply. Sometimes, tears rolled down from his eyes when children sang. Probably he was telling us he was happy. Maybe that’s the way he was reacting. Maybe that’s how one reacts when in coma. May be not,” she said.
On 8 August 2010 was Jetly’s 43rd birthday. The family had assembled at his bed-side to wish him a speedy recovery. “We prayed that he should be home for the next birthday, but…” says Shalini.
DOCTOR | He fought every injury in coma |In Bangalore, Air Vice-Marshal A.K. Behl, Commandant, Command Hospital, said Jetly was a very strong person who never gave up, despite being in a coma. “I was there when he was brought in from the crash site. He had so many injuries and his body fought everything one after the other. That showed his internal strength. We didn’t even allow a single bed-sore while he was with us. We took care of him the best possible way,” recalls Behl.
EX-CAS | Very sad and I remember the smart boy |Air Chief Marshal Krishnaswamy (retd), former Chief of Air Staff, IAF, said India lost a daredevil pilot with the death of Jetly. When Tarmak007 broke the sad news to Keecha – as he was popularly known – he said: “Very sad. I remember the smart boy. The loss of Jetly again shows how a professional military pilot has to scarify his life. How challenging his work is. Whatever maybe the issue that resulted in the crash, in aviation our efforts should be towards making aviation more safe and more acceptable. I have great respect for Jetly who was with the Sarang team with another fine pilot Hari, who I am told now is in HAL. My deepest condolences to Jetly’s family, near and dear ones.” The Sarang team was formed during Keecha’s tenure as the CAS.
WILL SOMEBODY HELP? | When Shalini’s story was brought to the notice of a senior Ministry of Defence official in Delhi, he promised help. Hope he sticks to his promise. If not, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik must step in and help Shalini, considering the agony she has undergone. A close family friend of Shalini’s says that the stock reply they got from officials was: “There are many such cases and we would have to look into pending ones first.”
If the powers-that-be want, then this wish, rather a genuine request of a pilot’s wife, can be done without much hassle. Tarmak007 would keep the campaign alive, in support of Shalini.
Extreme left in both photos (above and below) is late Wg Cdr Vikas Jetly. Photo Courtesy: Hari Nair, Ex-CO, Sarang Helicopter Display Team 
 (Request all Jetly’s friends (in IAF & others) who happen to read this blog, to email his photos with the Sarang team or any other while in Service to: anantha.ak@gmail.com)

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