Bell chopper wreckage found in Andhra forest after 102 days | india | Hindustan Times
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Bell chopper wreckage found in Andhra forest after 102 days

The wreckage of a Bell 430 helicopter, which went missing on August 3 with four crew on board, was reportedly found on Thursday deep in the forests of Pamunur Hills along the Andhra Pradesh-Chhattisgarh border, reports Ashok Das.

india Updated: Nov 14, 2008 00:46 IST
Ashok Das

The wreckage of a Bell 430 helicopter, which went missing on August 3 with four crew on board, was reportedly found on Thursday deep in the forests of Pamunur Hills along the Andhra Pradesh-Chhattisgarh border.

The Ran Air Services chopper had gone missing on way from Hyderabad to Raipur.

A Koya tribesman, looking for some medicinal plants in the forest, saw the wreckage, identity cards and skeletal remains on a hillside on Thursday morning.

He trekked to the nearest village in Andhra Pradesh and informed R. Ganesh, a medic who he has been doing business with.

Ganesh then called up the station house officer at Venkatapuram, around 410km from Hyderabad and 25km from the wreckage site. The police asked the tribesman to come to the police station to record the findings. He reached the police station in the evening.

"We've received information from a tribal that he has seen the wreckage of a helicopter. He also said he saw papers and identity cards and skeletal remains scattered on a hillside. We're trying to verify the information," Khammam Superintendent of Police Mahesh M. Bhagwat said.

As the forest is in a Maoist-infested area, the administration is planning to send a civilian team on Friday morning. The tribal will guide them. The police have refused to disclose the man's name, fearing that the Maoists might target him.

Some reporters from local TV channels tried to reach the forest as soon as they got the information, but were forced back by early nightfall and fear of Maoists.

The helicopter had four people on board -pilot B.P. Singh, assistant pilot Rajesh Gour, engineer Santosh Kumar and technician Aswini Kumar.

The aircraft had left Hyderabad at around 3p.m. on August 3 and was to reach Jagdalpur, headquarter of the Maoist-infested Bastar district in Chhattisgarh, one-and-a- half hour later for refuelling before proceeding to Raipur. It, however, went missing along the Andhra-Chhattisgarh border, raising fears that the Maoists could have shot it down.

All efforts to trace the chopper, including with the help of the Indian Air Force, proved futile. The Chhattisgarh government had announced a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh for any clues helping the search.

The helicopter was hired by the Chhattisgarh government to ferry Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam and others from Raipur to Ranchi. The leaders were to meet BJP president Rajnath Singh there the next day.

With inputs from PTI