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India Official Dies in Air Crash

March 3, 2002

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ The speaker of the Indian Parliament’s lower house was killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, a television channel reported.

G.M.C. Balayogi, his security guard and the pilot were killed when the helicopter hit a tree in fog just after taking off from the town of Bhimavaram, where Balayogi attended a rally, Star TV said.

Bhimavaram is about 845 miles southeast of New Delhi.

Police were not immediately available for comment.

It does not appear the crash was related to Hindu-Muslim violence in India’s western Gujarat state that has killed more than 400 people since Wednesday.

Balayogi, the speaker of the Lok Sabha, the decision-making lower house of Parliament, belonged to the regional Telugu Desam Party based in Andhra Pradesh.

Telugu Desam, a secular party, is the second largest member of the 21-party coalition government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

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