Itanagar: Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister
Dorji Khandu, who went missing on Saturday on a flight from
Tawang, is dead along with four others after their helicopter
crashed in bad weather in the mountains and their bodies and
the wreckage were located on Wednesday.
The five, including two pilots, who took off in a
single-engined EuroCopter B8 of Pawan Hans, perished in the
crash and the bodies and wreckage of the chopper were spotted
in a place between Kyela and Lobothang in the mountainous
region of the state this morning.
"The Chief Minister and four others are dead," Union
Minister for Development of Northeastern Region B K Handique
told a press conference here this evening.
The other occupants of the helicopter were pilots Capt
J S Babbar, Capt T S Mamik, Khandu`s security officer Yeshi
Choddak and Yeshi Lhamu, sister of Tawant MLA Tsewang Dhondup.
This is the second death of a Chief Minister in two
years after the death of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S
Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash in the Nallamalla
ranges in the state in September 2009.
There was also another crash involving a Pawan Hans
helicopter a fortnight ago in Arunachal mountains in which 17
people were killed.
Twice Chief Minister of this north eastern state,
56-year-old Khandu, who belongs to Monpa tribe, leaves four
wives, four sons and two daughters.
Khandu had worked in the military intelligence and
participated in the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971. He had
received a gold medal for meritorious service during the war.
Handique said operations for recovery of the bodies
were on and would continue through the night and, if
necessary, tomorrow morning.
Bodies will be picked up one after the other and
transported. A decision will be taken whether to bring them to
Tawang or to Itanagar, he said.
Handique had earlier in the day said a relative of
56-year-old Khandu, who has been Chief Minister twice, and a
panchayat leader from his constituency identified his body.
The panchayat leader Thupten from Kyela village of
Khandu`s Mukto constituency, first informed an official
Rinchin of his sighting the body which was passed on Tawang
Deputy Commissioner Hamli Padu, who alerted the army base at
Kyela, Handique reporters here.
Handique said a state mourning will be declared once
the body of the Chief Minister is recovered.
Handique said the Chief Minister`s body would lie in
state in his home here for people to pay their last respects
and full honours would be accorded to it.
To a question about a successor to Khandu, he said he
would be named at an appropriate time.
Asked whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and
Congress President Sonia Gandhi would be making a visit here,
he said they would get in touch with them once all formalities
The Minister said all the bodies were lying in a deep
gorge in Kyela near Luguthang at an altitude of 4,500 metres
about 6 hours by foot from Luguthang Gompa in Tawang district.
"The process may continue till morning and the bodies
one by one will be flown from Luguthang in a IAF Chetak
helicopter to Tawang from where it will be flown to Itanagar
most likely tomorrow with the consent of family members in a
big chopper," he said.
Earlier in the morning in Delhi, Home Minister P
Chidambaram gave hints of bad tidings when he said information
is "not encouraging and not good news". He spoke about
helicopters locating the site of the crash and sighting of
Later in the evening, in his second update to the
reporters he said, "From whatever I can piece together the
information from the information given by the villagers and
assuming it to be true, I am afraid the news is grim and sad."
Giving details, he said some villagers had reportedly
reached the site of the crash of a helicopter and communicated
to the control room in Itanagar that they had identified two
bodies while three were charred beyond recognition.
"These are interrupted communications by villagers who
have reached the site. But no official of the government, army
or police has been able to reach there," he said.
"It may take several hours for any of these officials
to reach the spot because it is about five kilometres from
Kyela," Chidambaram said.
He said a Cheetah helicopter, which flew over the
site, was also able to locate the debris of a crashed
helicopter and some bodies lying there.
"We are trying to land another Cheetah from Lubuthang,"
the Home Minister said, adding a team of the government to
reach the accident site which is about 5 kms from Kyela.
Handique said honouring the wishes of people, Khandu`s
body would be brought here and kept in his bungalow for the
people to pay their last respects.
Condoling Khandu`s death, West Bengal Governor M K
Narayanan said he was "not only an eminent politician, but
also a social worker par excellence".
Himachal Pradesh Governor Urmila Singh and Chief
Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said the country has lost a
politician of stature.
In a condolence message, Karnataka Chief Minister B S
Yeddyurappa described the Arunachal Chief Minister as a
popular leader whose contribution to national integration is
Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan said Khandu`s
work for the development of Arunachal Pradesh and for the
welfare of its people is his lasting legacy.
Assam Governor Janaki Ballav Patnaik and Chief
Minister Tarun Gogoi said the entire northeastern region had
lost a leader of repute with Khandu`s demise.
Uttarakhand Governor Margaret Alva and Madhya Pradesh
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also condoled the
Arunachal Chief Minister`s death.