On October 18, 2022, seven people on board a helicopter to Kedarnath were killed in a crash. The rescue and search operation was conducted by the state disaster response force (SDRF), which mentioned that the mishap seemed to have been caused by low visibility due to fog. Soon after the incident, news of it and condolence messages became viral on social media. Most of the tweets carried three pictures. One of the widely-shared images was that of a helicopter exploding mid-air.
Hastinapur MLA Dinesh Karthik‘s tweet carried the photos along with the message, which can be translated to English as: The news of pilgrim casualties in the helicopter crash en-route Baba Kedarnath Dham is very distressing. I express my deepest condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives in this accident. May God give strength to all. #Kedarnath #HelicopterCrash
बाबा केदारनाथ धाम में श्रद्धालुओं को लेकर जा रहे हेलीकॉप्टर क्रैश में कई लोगों के हताहत होने की खबर बेहद कष्टदायी है।
— Dinesh Khatik (@MLADineshKhatik) October 18, 2022
Aam Aadmi Party MLA Mukesh Ahlawat expressed his grief over the casualties in a tweet.
Journalist Suhrid Tiwari also expressed grief over the death of the passengers on board the helicopter. He tweeted the same pictures along with the condolence message:
Similarly, BJP MLA PN Pathak, former Uttar Pradesh PWD minister Chandrika Prasad Upadhyay, advocate Jitendra Baghel, BJP member of parliament Anil Firojiya, Congress MLA Indraj Gurjar, national social media in-charge of BJP OBC morcha Rahul Gurjar, national vice-president BJP OBC morcha Nayab Saini, BJP MLA Kedar Hazra, and many others shared the picture of a helicopter exploding mid-air.
A reverse image search of the picture with the burning helicopter showed that the same picture had been used as a representational image for several stories reporting on helicopter crashes for several years. The Google image search result showed that a story from Kashmir had used the same image in March 2022, but with the disclaimer that it was a representational image. The reverse image search also showed two results, one each from Microsoft Bing and Yandex, which referred to a report on a helicopter crash in Alaska in 2021 which carried the same image of the burning helicopter.
The Google search result also showed the photo was uploaded on istock and credited to user ‘giocalde’. However, on Alamy, the image of the same helicopter in undamaged condition was uploaded in 2012, and the photo credit carried the full name of the photographer, Giorgio Calderato. Below is a comparison of the pictures uploaded on Alamy and used in various news reports:
A set of characteristics can be noticed which distinguish the two images:
- In the explosion photo, there is a lack of consistency in the colour of the smoke.
- There doesn’t seem to be any significant change in the state of the helicopter, whether in the fan at the tail or the rotor.
The two observations noted above point towards the fact that the viral image could be manipulated.
Also, if one looks closely at the other pictures of the Kedarnath crash in the tweets where remains of the chopper can be seen, one can see that the body of the ill-fated chopper is blue in colour with white bands. In the explosion photo, however, the chopper is of metallic colour with a few saffron bands. Moreover, the tail of the helicopter seen in the crashed remains does not contain a rotor but the viral image does. Here is a comparison:
Hence, it can be said that the image of the helicopter ablaze mid-air is not that of the crashed chopper carrying pilgrims to Kedarnath. It is an old stock photo used multiple times for representational purposes.
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