Thrissur: Junior Warrant Officer A Pradeep, the lone Keralite killed in Wednesday's helicopter crash in Coonoor along with 13 other persons, including the Chief of Defence Staff of the Indian Armed Forces Bipin Rawat, hails from Puthur in Thrissur district. Poignantly, at his native place there is only one person who still does not know about his death.
Pradeep's father Arakkal Veettil Radhakrishnan, who is now on ventilator with serious respiratory issues, is unaware of Pradeep's tragic demise. Pradeep had been at his native place last week in connection with the treatment of his ailing father.
Pradeep also celebrated his son's birthday at his home in Puthur with the family members a few days ago. It was almost four days after he left home for his workplace at the Sulur air base in Coimbatore that the tragedy occurred.
Pradip's mother Kumari came to know about the tragedy soon. When the news of the crash trickled in, Kumari was worried as Pradeep informed her on Tuesday that he would be going with the higher officials in a helicopter on Wednesday.
But on Wednesday, Pradeep did not call her. So Kumari thought he might not have gone for the trip. But later in the day, she came to know about the shocking news from the reactions of those who have gathered around her house after hearing the news about Pradeep's death.
Pradeep was the flight gunner of the crashed helicopter. Pradeep joined the Air Force in 2004 and later served as aircrew in various parts of India. Apart from being involved in the flood rescue operations in Kerala, Pradeep was actively involved in the Uttarakhand flood rescue operation and various operations against the Maoists in Chhattisgarh.
It was six months ago that he was posted for duty at the Sulur air base. According to relatives, he wanted to come back to Kerala and settle down after completing 20 years of service in the Air Force.
He stayed in the Sulur air base with his family. He is survived by wife Sreelakshmi, son Dakshin Dev, 7, and Devaprayag, 2. He studied at the Lower Primary School, Mathikunnu; Government Higher Secondary School, Puthoor; and the Industrial Training Institute at Thrissur.
Active during flood rescue ops
The local people have only fond memories about Pradeep. For them, he was a real saviour during floods in 2018. He was part of the helicopter team that came for rescue operations during the floods. Pradeep voluntarily took up the task.
The rescue team in which Pradeep was a member received special appreciation from the President of India and the Kerala government.
Pradeep was very dear to all in his locality. Whenever he came home, he spent time with all his friends. He was in the forefront of all the celebrations. He was also a ace footballer and used to play with his friends.