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Andhra in deep mourning

india Updated: Sep 03, 2009 14:33 IST
Tasneem Nashrulla

A loud wail, emanating amidst the crowd gathered outside the camp office of Andhra Pradesh’s Chief Minister, signaled his demise - Dr. Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy, popularly known as YSR, was confirmed dead in a helicopter crash in the Nallamalla hills of Kurnool district.

The mangled remains of the Bell 430 chopper in which YSR was traveling from Hyderabad to Chittoor for an interaction with villagers, was found 40 nautical miles east of Kurnool. Soon after the bodies of 60-year-old YSR, his Special Secretary P Subramanyam, Chief Secretary A S C Wesley, pilot Group Captain S K Bhatia and co-pilot M S Reddy were recovered on Rudrakonda Hill.

A 24-hour search and rescue operation involving remote sensing satellites, IAF's Sukhoi-30 jet, military helicopters as well as teams of special commandos, army soldiers, tribals, local villagers and forest officials ended when an IAF helicopter located the remains of the ill-fated chopper which crash landed in the dense, forested area of Nallamalla due to bad weather. The chopper, which had taken off from Begumpet Airport at 0835 hours on Wednesday lost radio contact an hour later and was declared missing at 0930 hours. Soon after, a search mission of epic proportions was conducted to comb out the thicketed areas that were said to be Naxal-infested.

While the operation continued through the night, there was no trace of the chopper until Thursday morning when an IAF helicopter traced the remains of the twin engine Bell chopper on top of a hill. All 5 occupants of the helicopter were later confirmed dead.

YSR was arguably one of Andhra Pradesh’s most popular chief ministers, having been elected for his second term in office.