Lt Colonel MMA Hyderi of the 659th Army Aviation Squadron was going to be a father in a few days, so there was much excitement in his house somewhere in the eastern Himalayas, where the cheetah helicopters pilots are based.
His co-pilot young Captain RP Gohain, was on his fist posting after having cleared his flying training this year. He has seventeen months of flying experience but in true army spirit endless passion and will to serve.
I did not know the two gentlemen till I saw the video of the rescue operation and my first reaction - "something straight out of a Vietnam movie". I had never seen such daring flying.I saw the video for the first time in Chungthang. My cameraman, Guneet Singh I had attempted to trek to Lachung on the third day (21 September) after the earthquake. The roads were bad and it started drizzling as we were attempting to cross the most difficult slide. So we decided to come back.
On our way up we had met a very energetic young BRO officer Major Sonal Rajput who helped us cross one mudslide. On our way back we met him again at an army check post he was with his commanding officer, we had tea together and got talking about the road, rebuilding etc. Sometimes just spending time with people gives you the best stories and I have always believed that, this time too I got one of the best. The officer said he had an amazing helicopter rescue operation on his camera, I jumped when I saw it - it was clearly one of the top helicopter rescues in the world.
In the middle of nowhere we had no cables nothing to transfer the video, so we did it the old fashioned way; filmed directly from the camera in the darkest room of the checkpost.
I left the two gentlemen with a hint that the ITBP rescue team had shot the entire operation in a handy camera. So our next objective was to get that video. The men of the border police force are extremely resourceful so the boys got us the video in no time. I later found more, video shot from a mobile phone of another officer. The three angles clearly show how difficult the operation was.
A Bus belonging to the Border roads organization went missing on the Day of the Sikkim earthquake on the 18th September. It was found later cut from both sides by sheer cliff. One officer had been killed on the spot by a boulder that shot into the bus, another lay inside for two days badly injured. The other 16 hid in terror for the next two days. An ITBP rescue team reached them on the third day. They were able to rescue the rest but the injured officer could not be moved. This is when the hailed a overflying army helicopter.
Lt Colonel MMA Hyderi was flying the chopper with his co-pilot Captain PK Gohain, they were on a reccee mission on the 20th of Sept two days after the quake, flying two Border roads brigadiers to check the highway which was badly hit. They saw the men trapped and decided to go in.
This area is one of the most difficult in the north Sikkim highway between Theng and Chungthang the mountain is every sharp and the highway has been carved out of a rocky mountain. So there is little space for a helicopter to hover, leave alone land. The brigadiers decided they would jump out to get the injured in. It was a difficult task so Colonel Hyderi slowly moved the heli closer to the damaged highway, small rocks and dust everywhere as the heli moved closer (the video shows just how close) - when the video was shown to col Hyderi later he just could not believe it.
After the officers had jumped, Captain Gohain then hung from one side to get the injured person in. A sharp drop of a few hundred feet to the right a sheer cliff to the left lose rocks and bounders everywhere it was a risky mission. The ITBP men finally managed to put the injured officer in as the chopper was hovering just a foot from the ground.
The injured officer was then flown to a specialty hospital in Sikkim's capital Gangtok.
This clearly was one of the best helicopter rescues in the world.
A day or two after this Lt Colonel MMA Hyderi and his wife were blessed with a beautiful baby. He and captain Gohain continue to fly rescue and relief sorties in Sikkim.
Following is the video of the rescue operation and Karma's interview with the Captain RP Gohain.