On October 18, 2022, seven people on board a helicopter to Kedarnath were. 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 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.‘s tweet carried the photos along with the message, which can be translated to English as:
बाबा केदारनाथ धाम में श्रद्धालुओं को लेकर जा रहे हेलीकॉप्टर क्रैश में कई लोगों के हताहत होने की खबर बेहद कष्टदायी है।
इस हादसे में जान गंवाने वाले सभी लोगों के परिवारजनों के प्रति गहरी संवेदना व्यक्त करता हूं। ईश्वर सभी को संबल प्रदान करे।
— Dinesh Khatik (@MLADineshKhatik)
Aam Aadmi Party MLAexpressed his grief over the casualties in a tweet.
Journalistalso 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, former Uttar Pradesh PWD minister , advocate , BJP member of parliament , Congress MLA , national social media in-charge of BJP OBC morcha , national vice-president BJP OBC morcha , BJP MLA , 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. Theresult showed that 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 and which referred to a report on a helicopter crash in in 2021 which carried the same image of the burning helicopter.
The Google search result also showed the photo was uploaded onand credited to user Giocalde. However, on , 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:
In order to go to the bottom of the story, Alt News reached out to Giorgio Calderato, the photographer mentioned on Alamy. He confirmed having created the photo of the exploding helicopter using photoshop. “The photo is not real. It was created by me. It’s on sale for commercial purposes,” he told Alt News.
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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