IAF hero Darryl Castelino buried with military honours

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MUMBAI: Wing Commander Darryl Castelino, who died in a helicopter crash during rescue operations in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, was laid to rest in Mumbai on Sunday with full military honours.

A prayer ceremony at Vakola’s Diamond Park society, where the Castelino family lives, and a funeral mass at the nearby St Anthony’s Church preceded the burial at Our Lady of Egypt Church’s cemetery in Kalina. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan visited the Kalina church in the evening to pay his last respects. Officers from the Air Force units in the city were in attendance.

The hearse left for the funeral mass around 2.30pm, with Castelino’s wife Jyothi, son Ethan (7) and daughter Angelina (4) seated in the vehicle. There was a 21-gun salute for the Air Force braveheart.

Originally from Mumbai, Castelino (38) was attached with the Indian Air Force base at Kolkata. He was piloting the ill-fated Mi-17 helicopter, which crashed on its way back from a successful rescue operation in Kedarnath last Tuesday. It had onboard 20 Air Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and National Disaster Response Force personnel.

“Our society was about to get redeveloped when Darryl visited last December,” recalled Diamond Park resident Neela Khadilkar. “He was so excited about bringing his family to the brand-new flat.” The residents had put up banners in his honour and ensured the premises were cleaned in time for the prayer ceremony.

Castelino had often asked his mother Leena, affectionately known as “aunty” among people who knew her, to move to Kolkata, said Helen, an elderly lady at the funeral. She and Leena were best friends and met at the neighbourhood church for mass every day. “So many times he told her, ‘Come no, mumma’ and she said no,” said Helen. “How could she leave Vakola? Her entire life, circle of friends, home, everything else was here.” A group of Goregaon residents also attended the funeral mass to “salute his service to the nation”.

“What he did is great inspiration for the rest of us,” said activist Farid Batatawala, who came by with some members of the Muslim community to pay his last respects.

The Month’s Mind mass will be conducted on July 6 at St Anthony’s Church. While the ceremony is usually organized thirty days after a person’s death, the date has been advanced to allow Castelino’s distant relatives from out of town to pay their last respects.

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