Coast Guard aircraft with three aboard missing 

Chennai, June 9 (IANS) An Indian Coast Guard Dornier aircraft with three crew members aboard has gone missing near Karaikal in Puducherry, officials said here on Tuesday.

Search and rescue operations are on to locate the aircraft, deployed for surveillance along the Tamil Nadu coast and Palk Bay. It took off from Chennai airport around 6 p.m. on Monday for a surveillance sortie but did not return.

An official statement said the last contact with the aircraft was made at 9 p.m. on Monday.

The last known location of the aircraft, as per Trichy radar, was off Karaikal in Puducherry, where it was tracked till 9.23 p.m., 95 nautical miles south of Chennai.

Speaking to the media, Coast Guard Inspector General S.P. Sharma said that assigning any reason for the aircraft’s disappearance would be “premature”. He said an inquiry will be ordered.

The crew included Deputy Commandant Vidyasagar piloting the aircraft, his co-pilot and Deputy Commandant M.K. Soni and navigator/observer Subash Suresh.

“The aircraft was the latest induction in the Coast Guard inventory in 2014 and was being flown by highly experienced crew,” an official statement said.

Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said in a tweet that the search area for the missing aircraft was spread over 110 km from the coast, and up to Rameswaram.

An extensive search is being carried out by five ships of the Coast Guard and four of the Indian Navy. Two long-range maritime surveillance aircraft P8Is were also involved in the search operation.

The fishing community and marine police have been alerted to pass on any information regarding the missing plane that may come their way, officials said.

The latest incident comes months after a Dornier-228 of the Indian Navy with three crew members went down in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Goa.

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