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Debris of IAF chopper spotted in Arunachal Pradesh; two bodies located

The helicopter, with three operating crews on board, was evacuating people stranded due to landslides caused by heavy rainfall in Arunachal Pradesh when it went off the radar.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2017 00:25 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Arunachal,missing helicopter,chopper
Wreckage of the helicopter which went missing in Arunachal Pradesh.(HT Photo)

An Arunachal Pradesh police team on Wednesday afternoon located the wreckage of the Indian Air Force chopper that went off the radar while on flood rescue mission on Tuesday.

The team also found two mutilated but identifiable bodies beside the crash site.

The IAF, however, said it was not certain if the debris was of its missing Advanced Light helicopter.

A radio message from the district’s extra assistant commissioner M Taipodia to the state’s chief secretary and other officials said the debris of the IAF’s advanced light helicopter had been spotted in an “inaccessible deep gorge” at Sopo Yuha about 3pm.

The spot, near Hostalam village, is about 30 km north of state capital Itanagar.

Neither the district administration nor defence officials could provide an update on the three IAF crew members and a policeman who were on board the ill-fated chopper.

IAF officials in New Delhi said it was not certain if it was of the helicopter that went missing on Tuesday while engaged in flood evacuation.

“The search is continuing. Certain leads that the ground parties obtained will be intensively searched once the weather clears tomorrow,” an IAF official said.

Wing Commander M S Dhillon was the pilot of the helicopter.

Rescue Efforts to Resume

“We have deployed five police teams to locate the chopper, and one of them spotted the wreckage in a deep gorge where a waterfall meets a stream. Efforts to reach the spot will resume tomorrow (Thursday),” inspector-general of police (law and order) Nabin Payeng said.

The fate of the pilots will be known only after the search and rescue teams reach the spot, he added.

Officials said the rescue teams combed the areas along the route the chopper was to have used after taking off at 3:50pm from Pilputu helipad near Sagalee for the heliport at Naharlagun, about 13km from Itanagar.

“The helicopter was evacuating people stranded due to massive landslides caused by heavy rainfall,” Tezpur-based defence spokesperson Lt Col Sombit Ghosh said.

The chopper, he said, had gone out for flood rescue operations from the IAF base in central Assam’s Jorhat Tuesday morning.

Naharlagun-based civil aviation official M Pertin said the IAF chopper had made five sorties during the day.

“In the sixth sortie, the crew did not evacuate the last nine civilians at Sagalee but took off with a policeman for Naharlagun,” he said.

Union minister Kiren Rijiju gestures after his chopper made an emergency landing in Itanagar on Tuesday due to bad weather. ( PTI FILE PHOTO )

In a tweet, Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu said until it went missing the IAF chopper evacuated 169 people from Sagalee and Dambuk areas. Dambuk in Lower Dibang Valley district is 350km east of Itanagar.

Unpredictable weather often makes chopper travel risky in Arunachal Pradesh. Almost at the same time when the IAF chopper went missing, Union minister Kiren Rijiju had a close shave with death when the Mi-17 helicopter he was in had to land in a polytechnic college field in Itanagar due to poor visibility.

The state has had a history of chopper crashes. In March 2011, chief minister Dorjee Khandu and four others died after their Pawan Hans chopper crashed near Sela in Tawang district.

That year, another helicopter crashed while landing at Tawang, killing 16 people.

Four years later, a Pawan Hans helicopter crash killed Tirap district’s deputy commissioner Kamlesh Joshi and two others.

In May, two IAF pilots died when their Sukhoi-30 fighter jet crashed near the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.

(with inputs from IANS)

First Published: Jul 05, 2017 19:13 IST