AN 32 crash: Bad weather hampers search operations for mortal remains, black box recovered

Madhuri Adnal

New Delhi, June 14: The search and rescue operations by helicopters to locate the mortal remains of all 13 air-warriors believed to be on board the Antonov AN-32, which crashed in Arunachal Pradesh on June 3, was called off due to bad weather conditions, a day after IAF helicopters spotted the wreckage. The operations by the choppers will resume later. The black box of the transport plane has been recovered.

The Air Force on Friday comfirmed that the black box of the aircraft, which includes the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, has been retrieved. An analysis of the black box data will allow the Air Force to establish the cause behind the crash.

Meanwhile, the mortal remains once recovered, will be taken to Jorhat airbase in Assam.

As many as eight crew and five passengers were believed to be on board the aircraft. News agency ANI has reported that the families of the 13 personnel have already been informed.

All 13 air-warriors on board in AN-32 transport aircraft that crashed in a heavily forested mountainous area in Arunachal Pradesh 10 days back were killed, the Indian Air Force (IAF) said on Thursday.

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Official sources said the "black box" of the aircraft has been recovered from the crash site and it will help the investigators reconstruct the events leading to the crash.

The IAF has already ordered a court of inquiry into the accident, one of the worst involving a military aircraft in recent years.

The Russian-origin aircraft went missing on the afternoon of June 3, around 33 minutes after taking off from Jorhat in Assam for Menchuka in Arunachal Pradesh.

After eight days of a massive search operation, the wreckage of the plane was spotted by an IAF chopper on Tuesday at a height of 12,000 ft near Gatte village on the border of Siang and Shi-Yomi districts.

The air-warriors who were killed in the crash were Wing Commander G M Charles, Squadron Leader H Vinod, Flight Lieutenant M K Garg, Flight Lieutenant S Mohanty, Flight Lieutenant A Tanwar, Flight Lieutenant R Thapa, Warrant Officer K K Mishra, Sergeant Anoop Kumar, Corporal Sherin, Leading Aircraftman S K Singh and Leading Aircraftman Pankaj.

Two non-combatants Putali and Rajesh Kumar also died in the crash.

"IAF pays tribute to the brave air-warriors who lost their life in the line of duty. IAF is making all efforts to recover the mortal remains. No effort is being spared in ensuring expeditious transfer of the mortal remains of the air-warriors to their parent base at Jorhat," the IAF said.

Thick vegetation and inhospitable terrain coupled with inclement weather had adversely affected the aerial search operation.

After the wreckage was spotted, helicopters were sent but they could not land as the crash site has a steep slope and thick forest.

Two km from the designated crash site, an area was designated and a camp was established for helicopters to land with the recovery parties.

On Jun 12, a team of nine IAF personnel, four Army Special Forces personnel and two local mountaineers were dropped at the campsite. Eight of them trekked to the crash site on Friday and they found that all the 13 people on board the plane did not survive the accident.

(with PTI inputs)

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