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HindustanTimes Sat,26 Jul 2014

Soldier’s body found 45 years after air crash

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, August 31, 2013
First Published: 19:27 IST(31/8/2013) | Last Updated: 04:00 IST(1/9/2013)

An army expedition of Dogra Scouts of Western Command has recovered the mortal remains of Havildar Jagmail Singh on Dakka glacier after 45 years of AN-12 aircraft accident.

According to Western Command’s statement, the identity was established by an identity disk, an insurance policy and a letter from his family retrieved from his pocket. The mortal remains, are being brought to Chandimandir Military Station, Panchkula, from where it will be taken to his native place village Meerpur, Rewari, for last rites with complete military honours.

An AN-12 transport aircraft had taken off on a freezing February morning in 1968 and was headed towards Leh.

There 98 army personnel and four crew members onboard, on their way to join their duties. Halfway to Leh, the pilot, Flt Lt HK Singh, had decided to turn back due to the unfavourable weather conditions in Jammu and Kashmir. The aircraft had made last radio contact near the Rohtang Pass and thereafter appeared to have vanished into the thin air.

The disappearance remained a mystery until 2003, when the debris of the ill-fated aircraft was accidentally discovered by an expedition team at the Dhakka Glacier, in the Chanderbhaga ranges of Lahaul and Spiti.

Search operations

As per Western Command press statement, since then three search missions till 2009 were carried out and four bodies had been recovered. On August 16, 2013, the Army embarked on another expedition to try and locate the mortal remains of its comrades as also to try and recover the Flight Data Recorder (Black Box).

The Western Command says, “The expedition of the Dogra Scouts of Western Command comprised amongst the finest mountaineers of the country including an ‘Everester’.”

The glacier where the operations are on, lies at an altitude of approximately 17,000-18,000 feet and is avalanche prone, dotted with innumerable crevasses. The site is at an 80 degree gradient from the base camp. The high wind velocities, sub-zero temperatures restricts the search window to about 15-20 days a year and that too only for a few hours during the day.

“The team braving all odds and in the face of extremely hostile weather conditions continued its mission till August 30,” said the statement.

“The soldiers may be long gone but not forgotten and concerted efforts will continue until logical closure.”

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