No survivors, says IAF after first recce team reaches crashed An-32 aircraft
Air force and army helicopters on Wednesday had airdropped 15 mountaineers for rescue operations last evening. The IAF said eight reached the An-32 crash site on Thursday morning.Updated: Jun 13, 2019 16:53 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Thirteen military personnel on board the An-32 aircraft that crashed in Arunachal Pradesh on June 3 have died, the Indian Air Force said on Thursday hours after the first recce team reached the crash site. Air force and army helicopters on Wednesday had airdropped 15 mountaineers for rescue operations. Eight of them reached the crash site and transmitted the tragic news.
“IAF is sad to inform that there are no survivors from the crash of An32,” the air force said in a string of tweets to “pay tribute to the brave air-warriors who lost their life” in the crash.
The IAF also identified the air warriors who died in the crash: Wing Commander GM Charles, Squadron Leader H Vinod, Flight Lieutenants R Thapa, Ashish Tanwar, S Mohanty and Mohit K Garg, Warrant Officer KK Mishra, Sergeant Anoop Kumar, Corporal Sherin, Leading Air Craftsman SK Singh and Pankaj and two non combatant enrolled employees Putali and Rajesh Kumar.
News agency ANI later said the team had also retrieved the aircraft’s black box, or flight data recorder that could provide clues into what happened in the plane moments before it went down.
The An-32 was on its way to an advanced landing ground at Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Siang district - about 15 km from the Line of Actual Control, the disputed border with China - when it lost contact with ground control in about 30 minutes after taking off from Jorhat in Assam.
The aircraft was equipped with an emergency locator transmitter, an emergency beacon in the cargo section that can broadcast distress signals to reveal the location of an aircraft. But no signal came from this device.
The The 24-metre-long aircraft with a wingspan of about 29 metres was a speck in a treacherous search zone spanning hundreds of square kilometers dotted with towering ridges, thick forests and deep valleys, officials familiar with the search said. The search efforts were hampered by bad weather, with fierce rains and poor visibility narrowing the scope of operations.
For eight days, the IAF deployed every possible asset it could - right from satellites in space, specialised surveillance aircraft from the Navy, unmanned aerial vehicles, and Global 5000 surveillance jet of the country’s external spy agency to locate the Soviet-origin transport plane that mysteriously disappeared from its radar screens. It also announced a Rs 5 lakh reward for information that could help it locate the aircraft.
The first firm clue about the crash site came eight days later from a villager in Arunachal Pradesh’s remote mountains, according to state government officials in the West Siang district.
A Mi-17 helicopter, among the scores of aircraft involved in the massive search, finally sighted the wreckage at 12,000 feet near a tiny village called Lipo with a population of just around 120 people. The first image of the crash site indicated the plane had blown up into a ball of fire on impact and dimmed hopes about the possibility of the IAF personnel surviving the crash.
The crash is similar to an incident from 10 years ago in which the wreckage of an AN-32 that crashed in West Siang with the same number of people on board was found at 12,000 feet. There were no survivors in the June 2009 crash. The IAF has lost 10 aircraft this year.
In 2016, another AN-32 – flying from Chennai to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands – went missing above the Bay of Bengal with 29 people on board. Search teams were not able to locate the aircraft despite a massive operation.
First Published: Jun 13, 2019 13:07 IST