Thirty-nine years after an AN-12 aircraft of the Indian Air Force crashed in Lahaul valley with 102 personnel on board after take-off from Chandigarh, an Army expedition has led to the bodies of three of the passengers being discovered.
This is the second time that the bodies of passengers on board the aircraft have been found by an expedition after the wreckage was discovered in 2003. The aircraft had remained missing for nearly 35 years when it was stumbled upon by an expedition of Manai Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports.
As per information revealed by Army, an expedition of Dogra Scouts, named ‘Punaruthan-III,’ had been launched with the specific task of retrieving the bodies of the soldiers missing in the crash in 1968.
Missing in action
On February 7, 1968, an AN-12 aircraft of the Indian Air Force took off from Chandigarh on a routine logistics sortie with 102 persons on board to Leh
The aircraft hit the towering 6,264-metre high Chandrabhaga Peak in Lahaul Valley in Lahaul and Spiti
The aircraft remained missing for nearly 35 years when it was stumbled upon by an expedition of Manai Institute of Mountaineering and Allied
An expedition of Dogra Scouts, named ‘Punaruthan-III,’ was launched with the specific task of retrieving the bodies of the
The troops found the bodies of three soldiers on August 9 from a glaciated area at an altitude of over 17,500 feet near the Chandrabhaga peak.
The expedition was launched under Major Nishant Kumar on August 2 and it managed to find the bodies after a five-day search.
As per Army officials, efforts are being made to confirm the identity of the deceased soldiers from the documents and identity cards recovered along with their bodies.
“Thereafter, the next of kin of the deceased soldiers will be intimated of the recovery of the bodies. The mortal remains of the three soldiers will be escorted to their native places and last rites conducted with full military honours”, a defence spokesman said.
In July 2003, the body of Pioneer Beli Ram had been found by the expedition which discovered the wreckage of the aircraft.
Ram’s remains were taken to his native village in Akhnoor in Jammu and Kashmir and cremated with full military honours.
This was the third expedition launched by the Army to recover the bodies of the crew and the passengers. Earlier attempts had not yielded any results because the aircraft had disintegrated after impact with the mountain peak and the wreckage had been buried under the glacier over the last three decades.
Subsequent to the discovery of the wreckage, the Indian Army has been launching expeditions every summer to recover bodies of the lost soldiers.