[Nellie N Manpoong]
ITANAGAR, Jun 13: All the 13 onboard the An-32 aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) have been killed in the crash that occurred on 3 June.
Sources informed that the crucial black box of the An-32 has also been recovered.
The IAF’s An-32 transport aircraft had lost contact with ground control and went off radar between the mountains of Siang and Shi Yomi districts while on its way from Jorhat to Mechukha on 3 June.
After days of failed efforts, the wreckage was sighted on 11 June, near Tato, at an approximate elevation of 12000 ft by an IAF Mi-17 helicopter.
Extensive aerial and ground search were carried out for eight days in the tough terrain and unpredictable weather of the area before search and rescue teams located the wreckage on the ninth day, 11 June.
Aerial operations were launched for the crash site. However, due to steep slope and thick forest, the helicopter could not land near the crash site, said defence spokesperson, Kohima Colonel C Konwer in a statement.
On 12 June, a team of nine IAF personnel (including mountaineers), four Army Special Forces personnel and two local mountaineers were dropped at the campsite.
On Thursday morning, an eight-member rescue team had reached the crash site.
After verification of the site, the IAF tweeted: “The IAF is sad to inform that there are no survivors from the crash of An32.”
The 13 air-warriors were: Wing Commander GM Charles, Squadron Leader H Vinod, flight lieutenants R Thapa, A Tanwar, S Mohanty and MK Garg, Warrant Officer KK Mishra, Sergeant Anoop Kumar, Corporal Sherin, Leading Air Craftsmen SK Singh and Pankaj, and non-combatants (E) Putali and Rajesh Kumar.
Reportedly, the bodies are yet to be retrieved and brought back to base in Jorhat.
Additionally, a ‘Court of Inquiry’ has been ordered to investigate the cause of accident.
Paying tribute to the brave air-warriors, the IAF said that it “stands by with the families of the victims. May their souls rest in peace.”
Meanwhile, Arunachal Pradesh Governor BD Mishra, Chief Minister Pema Khandu and state legislative assembly speaker PD Sona conveyed their deep condolences to the families of the air-warriors on the tragic accident of the IAF in the state on 3rd June.
In his condolence letter to the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, the governor said, “In this hour of crisis, my thoughts go to all the 13 great air warriors of the Indian Air Force, who lost their lives in this unfortunate plane crash. It is a great national loss and we, as a nation, have suffered great setback to have lost these 13 capable combat patriots.”
Praying for fortitude of the families, the governor said, “Every citizen of the state of Arunachal Pradesh stands in support of the families of the martyrs.”
Chief Minister Pema Khandu also conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family members of the brave air warriors of the unfortunate aircraft.
In his condolence message, Khandu said, “I am shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of lives of our brave air warriors who attained martyrdom in the line of their duties.”
“While I express my solidarity to the Indian Air Force for loss of their men and officers, I call them true patriots as they laid their lives for the cause of our motherland. I pay my rich tribute to the brave soldiers and true sons of the soil,” he added.
Sona, who is also the MLA of Mechuka in Shi Yomi district, expressed grief over the death of the 13 air warriors who lost their lives in the unfortunate crash in the mountains of Shi-Yomi and Siang districts.
Terming the demise of air warriors as “a great loss to the nation,” the speaker said, “the people of the state stand in support of the bereaved families in this crucial juncture.”
He also prayed for eternal peace of the departed souls of the brave hearts and also to bestow enough strength to the bereaved families to bear the irreparable loss.
Timeline of aircraft crashes in Arunachal since 1995
6 June, 1995: An MI-8 chopper crashed near Bello village in Yomcha subdivision of West Siang district, killing all seven on board.
14 November, 1997: Union MoS for defence NVN Somu and three others died when their four-seater Cheetah crashed near Tawang.
26 February, 2001: An MI-8 chopper of the IAF crashed near Ziro, in Lower Subansiri district, killing all six crew members, while returning from Tali after a ration sortie.
8 May, 2001: A Pawan Hans chopper crashed near Sessa in West Kameng, killing education minister Dera Natung, education secretary Sangey Lhaden, and four others.
9 June, 2009: An AN-32 aircraft crashed near Tato, killing all 13 defence personnel on board, while returning from Mechuka.
19 November, 2010: An Mi-17 helicopter of the IAF crashed in Bomdir, close to Tawang, claiming the lives of 19 people on board.
19 April, 2011: An Mi-17 Pawan Hans chopper crashed while trying to land in Tawang, claiming the lives of 17 people.
30 April, 2011: A single-engine, five-seater Pawan Hans chopper carrying chief minister Dorjee Khandu perished. The bodies of all five were recovered five days later.
12 August, 2015: A Pawan Hans helicopter went missing after taking off from Khonsa, in Tirap district, with DC Kamlesh Joshi and two pilots onboard. All perished in the crash.
25 May, 2017: Two pilots of the IAF died after a Sukhoi-30 fighter jet crashed near the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh boundary.
4 July, 2017: A chopper of the IAF went missing near Sagalee while on a relief and rescue operation. Three IAF and one IRBn personnel died.
6 October, 2017: Five IAF crew members and two army officers were killed after an Mi-17 V5 helicopter of the IAF crashed near Tawang.
3 June 2019: Thirteen IAF personnel killed in AN-32 crash near Siang district.