Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, while "officially confirming" the death of Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash, on Thursday said it was not yet known what caused the accident, in which four others were also killed.
"I am officially confirming the tragic deaths," said a sombre Chidambaram, who was supervising the massive search operation for the missing Bell-430 helicopter with which contact was lost at 9.35 am on Wednesday, an hour after it had taken off from Hyderabad on a flight to Chittoor, 588 km south of the Andhra Pradesh capital.
"But I cannot say why. It is not possible to say now. That will have to be dealt with later," the home minister told reporters outside his North Block office here when asked about the cause of the accident.
Chidambaram said the crew of an Indian Air Force (IAF) search helicopter saw the mangled remains of the state government-owned helicopter at 8.30 am on Thursday on a hillock 40 nautical miles east of Kurnool. Kurnool is about 200 km from Hyderabad.
IAF para-commandos rapelled down ropes from the hovering chopper to locate the bodies.
"It is with deep regret that we have to announce the death of Dr Rajasekhara Reddy and four other occupants of the helicopter," Chidambaram said.
He said that he had conveyed the news to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the union cabinet would meet at 3 pm to "pass a condolence resolution".
The helicopter "has broken up into several parts" and the bodies are "also charred", he said.
According to Chidamabaram the five bodies were still lying near the crash site and would be flown to Hyderabad. However, he was quick to add that "it will take time".
"Efforts are being made to bring the bodies to Hyderabad. It is not possible to say when the bodies will be carried to Hyderabad," he said. The home minister also pointed out that doctors would be flown in to the crash site.
"We are in deep mourning. We have a deep sense of shock at the death of the chief minister and a tall leader. We share grief and send condolence" to the bereaved families of the chief minister and four others, the home minister said.