New Delhi: A mountaineering expedition has located the decayed body of one of the soldiers on board an AN-12 aircraft of the Indian Air Force, 50 years after it crashed in the Lahaul valley of Himachal Pradesh while flying from Chandigarh to Leh.
Built by the erstwhile Soviet Union, the plane — which was carrying 98 passengers and four crew members — went missing on February 7, 1968, after the pilot decided to turn around due to inclement weather. The plane was reportedly over Rohtang Pass when it made its last radio contact.
The discovery was made by a team of mountaineers during a cleanliness drive on the Chandrabhaga-13 peak from July 1-15, The Economic Times reported. The remains were found at the Dhaka glacier base camp, 6,200 metres above sea level.
Rajeev Rawat, the leader of the expedition group, said: "We were somewhat taken aback to come upon something we had not expected when we found the remains of the wrecked aircraft as well as the decayed body of a soldier at Dhaka Glacier."
"First, we stumbled upon parts of the aircraft, which was followed by the discovery of the frozen body of a soldier lying with its head down. The hand and hair were almost intact despite 50 years of the crash," he said.
Rawat said the discovery was made on July 11 but the army was informed when the team reached the first road head on its way back on July 15. "We did not touch anything, but took pictures and made a video and forwarded them to the army authorities," he said.
Talking about the possible factors behind the discovery, Rawat said less snowfall in the higher altitudes may be a reason why things buried long under snow were coming to the surface. He said parts of the wreckage and the bodies must be spread over an area of 2- 2.5 kilometres.
An expedition of the ABV Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali, had recovered the wreckage of the plane and the remains of a body in 2003, which was later identified as that of Sepoy Beli Ram.
Four years later, the army found three more bodies and till 2017, only five bodies were recovered.
(With inputs from PTI)