Nine days after Mumbai trekker Richard Joseph Khear fell into gorge while attempting to scale the Castle peak in Lahaul and Spiti, the army on Sunday finally managed to retrieve the body.
The army team comprising 14 personnel had undertaken the operation to rescue Richard Joseph Khear at the dawn on Sunday. The jawans from the Jammu and Kashmir police and the personnel from High Altitude School of Warfare in Gulmarg, Kashmir, were able to reach the ridge where Richard had been lying. The mishap had occurred in the Castle peak which is at the height of 17,000 feet.
The two army choppers that conducted aerial survey on Saturday had air-dropped equipment required for climbing the steep rocky cliff to reach Richard.
"Army personnel finally managed to retrieve Richard Joseph Khear's body from the gorge where he had fallen down," Dr Amit Guleria, subdivisional magistrate Udiapur, told Hindustan Times.
"We do not know what is the exact condition of the body right now. Clear picture will emerge only after the army personnel reach the base camp," said he.
Richard's body will be air-lifted from the base camp which is 30 km ahead of the last inhabitated village Khanjar in the Miyar Valley. "It will take army personnel at least two to three hours to reach the base camp," said Guleria.
Richard had been on mountaineering expedition along with his non-resident Indian friend Sunny since August 17. Both had arrived from Mumbai on August 5 and stayed in Manali before setting out for mountains in the Miyarh Valley in Lahaul and Spiti.
After a team of mountaineers from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of mountaineering failed to reach out the Mumbai trekker, the civil administration had sought assistance from the army and the National Disaster Relief Force to rescue Richard, as his parents- mother Judith Khear and father Brij Khear- were only hoping against hope.
The body will be brought to Udaipur for postmortem before being handed over to Richard's parents, who rued the delay in rescue efforts.
"I have this regret that there was no one besides Richard when he breathed his last," Richard's mother Judith Khear said while breaking down during her conversation over telephone.
"Finally, after delay of nine days, I will have my son with me. The local administration has assured that it will provide us ambulance to ferry the body till Chandigarh.
"Richard could not have found a better place to spend rest of time in the mountains. But, I regret that political leaders in Himachal are hard-hearted. There was not a single soul to help out my son. May be he could have been saved had the help reached him in time. There was too much delay," said she, adding that last rites of Richard would be performed in Mumbai.
Richard worked in Pest Control of India in Mumbai and was fond of trekking and mountaineering.
"Sunny is an experienced mountaineer, he has been going on different expeditions world over. I believe there was some slip. But, now I want to close this chapter," said Judith.
August 29: Richard fell into gorge
August 30: Richards's friend Sunny informed the police in Udaipur.
August 31: Civil administration dispatches team of rescuers.
August 31: Air Force chopper conducted an aerial survey and dropped two mountaineers
September 1: Mountaineers fail to reach Richard.
September 3: Army officials arrive from Manali to take stock of situation.
September 4: Army takes stock of situation
September 5: Army choppers drop 14 personnel to rescue Richard
September 6: Army retrieves Richard's body.