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AN-32 crash: Nine days after wreckage was spotted, bodies yet to be retrieved

ITANAGAR, JUN 19:

Nine days after the wreckage of an India Air Force (IAF) AN-32 transport aircraft was spotted and eight days after the rescue team reached the crash site, the bodies of the 13 crew members who died in the crash are yet to be retrieved.

Family members of the fallen air warriors say their patience is running out even as hopes of bringing back the bodies rest on a new team which has been dispatched to the crash site.

On Wednesday, the IAF helicopters could not again take off for the fourth straight day after low clouds and rainfall at the crash site.

They took so many days to spot the aircraft. Now for the last eight days every evening they come and say the same thing that bodies could not be brought back, the helicopter could not fly due to bad weather, said an angry Radhey Lal, a retired India Army subedar who has been camping in Jorhat since June 4.

His 29-year-old son Ashish Tanwar was piloting the aircraft which took off from Jorhat for the advanced landing ground in Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh on June 3 and crashed in the Pari-Adi hills.

Lal says they have asked the Air Force officials to increase the number of ground teams to get to the crash site and get the bodies.

We have told them that we will go to the defence minister again if the bodies are not brought soon. If they can retrieve the black box and are preparing it to send to Ukraine, they can surely make more efforts to bring back the bodies, he said.

Ram Santosh, whose brother Rajesh Kumar, a cook with the IAF is among the dead, is also riled at the delay in retrieving the bodies.

They tell us every other day, the bodies will be brought. Sitting in Delhi, frankly I don t know what s exactly happening. I don t trust anymore what they are saying. It s been nine days, he said speaking on the phone from the national capital.

Indian Air Force and state police officials, however, explained how retrieval is easier said than done in the hostile terrain where the plane crashed.

The crash site is a thickly forested mountain slope at an approximate altitude of 12,000 feet.

The first team that was dropped on June 12 tried dragging the bodies. But the body bags were coming apart. Also it is very dangerous for the personnel to drag the bodies on the treacherous mountain slopes, an IAF spokesperson said.

On Sunday, a 20 member team, comprising of eight elite commandoes from the IAF and the Indian Army and 11 porters, and a local hunter was dispatched to help the team camping at the spot. The team is expected to get to the spot on Wednesday after a three-day trek.

The plan was initiated when the weather and clouds did not allow any helicopter flight, he said.

This spokesperson explained winching is the only option to get the bodies back to the base but even that cannot be carried out over the crash site.

The closest spot to the crash site where the chopper can hover is also about three km away where the bodies have to be brought there before they can be winched up, the spokesperson explained.

But cloud cover and rainfall at the crash site over the last few days means steep mountain side is not visible for the choppers to even safely hover.

We are hopeful that the weather will eventually clear up, he said. (Hindustan Times)

 

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