Chandigarh: Over 45 years after the crash of an IAF AN-12 transport aircraft on a flight to Leh from here, the mortal remains of a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) the fifth of the 102 on board has been recovered.
An expedition of the Dogra Scouts of Western Command on August 22 recovered the mortal remains of NCO Hav. Jagmail Singh of the Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers after a period of 45 years and six months from the crash, a defence release said today.
The identity of the deceased was established by an identity disk, an insurance policy and a letter from his family, which was retrieved from his pocket, the release said.
The mortal remains of the NCO, are expected to be brought to Chandi Mandir Military Station later today from where they will be taken to his native place in Meerpur village of Rewari district in Haryana for last rites with full military honours.
The release said that on a freezing February morning in 1968, as dawn broke over Chandigarh, an AN-12 transport aircraft took off from the fog-enveloped runway and headed towards Leh.
On board were 98 army personnel and four crew members on their way to join their duties.
Halfway to Leh, the pilot, Flt Lt HK Singh, decided to turn back due to inclement weather over Jammu and Kashmir.
The aircraft last made radio contact near Rohtang Pass and thereafter appeared to have vanished into thin air, the release said.
The disappearance of the aircraft remained a mystery till 2003 when the debris of the ill-fated plane was accidentally discovered by an expedition in the Dhakka Glacier, high in the Chander Bhaga Ranges of Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh.
The release said that since then, and over the course of three search missions till 2009, four bodies had been recovered.
On August 16 of this year, Indian Army embarked on another expedition to try and locate the mortal remains of the remaining personnel on board the flight and recover the Flight Data Recorder (Black Box).
The expedition by the Dogra Scouts comprised the finest mountaineers of the country including an `Everester`, the release said.
The glacier where the search operations are underway lies at an altitude of approximately 17,000-18,000ft and is avalanche prone and dotted with innumerable crevasses.
The site itself is at an 80 degree gradient from the base camp, the release added.
High wind velocities and sub-zero temperatures restricts the search window to about 15-20 days a year and that too only for a few hours during the day.
Braving all odds and in the face of extremely hostile conditions, the team continued its mission till yesterday, the release said.
The release said that the mission was an endeavour by the Army to give its perished brethren a befitting `Last Post` in keeping with its highest traditions.
The long wait of 45 years since the crash has not in any way dimmed the Army`s commitment to retrieving the bodies, the release said, adding that "the soldiers may be long gone but not forgotten and concerted efforts will continue until logical closure".