One of the the pilots of the Pawan Hans helicopter that went missing in Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday with an IAS officer on board has been identified as BS Brar from New Delhi. The other is Rajeev Hoskote from Maharashtra.
Officials in the frontier state said inclement weather and dense forest on a difficult hilly terrain have come in the way of search operations even with people of at least six tribal villages chipping in.
“The weather cleared somewhat on Wednesday for Sukhoi jets from Bareilly to join the search operation, but the chopper could not be traced. We hope to locate it today (Thursday) on the basis of data collected by the aircraft after scanning the area,” state chief secretary Ramesh Negi said.
He read out the names of the two pilots as Brar and Hoskote.
The chopper, with Tirap district deputy commissioner Kamlesh Mehta on board, was travelling from Khonsa to Longding in southern Arunachal Pradesh.
It vanished without a trace minutes after taking off Tuesday morning. Heavy rain and overcast conditions stalled search operations that day.
While the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has ordered preliminary investigation into the missing chopper, Pawan Hans deputed a team from Guwahati and Delhi to conduct an internal inquiry.
“Six helicopters provided by the army and air force have been detailed for search operation. But everything depends on weather,” Negi said.
Local administration officers and the armed forces expressed their gratitude to people of Dadam, Thinsa, Sanliam and other villages in the area for assisting in the search operations.
“Their participation is crucial since no one knows the area better than them,” a local officer said, adding the rescue teams have zeroed in on a mountainous stretch between villages Dadam and Sanliam above river Terun Ku.
Unpredictable weather makes Arunachal Pradesh an unsafe zone for helicopters to fly, though there are passenger services from Guwahati to places such as Tawang and Naharlagun. Former chief minister Dorjee Khandu was killed when the chopper he was in crashed near Sela on April 30, 2011.
The remnants of that chopper were located on May 4 with bad weather holding up search operations.