Debris of IAF helicopter, crew’s bodies found; CM Khandu expresses grief

The wreckage of the Indian Air Force helicopter that crashed in Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday and the bodies of the three crew members and one policeman on board have been recovered, the IAF said on Thursday.

A court of inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the reason for the crash in the Northeast border state’s Papum Pare district.

Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu expressed deep shock and grief, saying the confirmation of the tragic incident has come as a shocker to the people and a pale of gloom has descended over the state, which is struggling to come to normalcy after the fury of nature that threw life out of gear.

A defence statement said Arunachal Pradesh Police team spotted the wreckage of the helicopter on Wednesday evening during the search by joint rescue teams of Army, the National Disaster Response Force, police and the Indian Air Force.

The wreckage and the bodies were found in Sopho Yuha, near Hostallam village, about 30 km from Itanagar.

On Thursday morning, rescue parties comprising IAF’s Garud commandos and a medical team, Army, NDRF were able to reach the crash site along with the Arunachal Pradesh Police team that had sighted the wreckage.

“The bodies of three personnel have been recovered so far. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered to investigate the cause of the accident,” the IAF said.

A police official said two of the bodies are identifiable but the other two were charred beyond recognition.

The crew comprised Wing Commander MS Dhillon, Flight Lieutenant PK Singh, Flight Engineer Sergeant Gujjar while Indian Reserve Battalion member Nada Umbing had boarded the helicopter from Pilputu Helipad near Sagalee on Tuesday.

The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) of the IAF engaged in flood rescue mission in the state went missing at 3.50 pm on Tuesday after it took off from Pilputu.

The helicopter was evacuating people stranded in Sagalee and Dambuk due to massive landslides caused by heavy rains.

Papum Pare district official J Pertin said the helicopter had made five sorties since it arrived there at around 10.30 am on Tuesday morning.

“In the sixth sortie to Naharlagun, for unknown reason, the crew did not take the last batch of nine civilians and took off from Sagalee with just one policeman, who was deployed to help the two crew members and then went missing,” Pertin told news agency IANS.

Meanwhile, Khandu paid tribute to the killed IAF personnel, saying they were “on a mission to rescue people stranded due to floods by airlifting them to safer locations. Hundreds of people rescued by IAF couldn’t even thank enough when this tragedy struck like a bolt from nowhere. They are shattered by the news and mourn the death of their saviours”.

He said it is a very sad moment for everyone that a rescue operation ended in such a tragedy and conveyed heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family members.

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