AN-32 crash: Inclement weather hampers operations to retrieve bodies, says IAF

The rescue team--comprising of 17 IAF, Army Special Forces, and civilian members--is present at the crash site.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Saturday stated that operations to retrieve the mortal remains of the 13 personnel onboard the ill-fated An-32 are being curtailed due to incessant rains and heavy clouding. No helicopter could fly due to bad weather, added the IAF. The rescue team--comprising of 17 IAF, Army Special Forces, and civilian members--is present at the crash site.

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Helicopter operations require great skill and caution, under such conditions, especially hovering at high altitudes and very close to the steep mountain slopes, added the IAF. It said that bad weather has been hampering the hovering by helicopters to do winching operations which are mandatory for all the rescue operations and recovery of mortal remains.

All efforts are being made to heli-lift the mortal remains of the IAF personnel at the earliest to their parent base Jorhat. Rescue teams, including Cheetah and ALH Helicopters, are on stand-by and operations will resume as soon as the weather improves. At present, there are low clouds associated with rain in the area. 

The effort to retrieve the mortal remains of the air-warriors who laid down their lives in the line of duty commenced early morning. However, the progress got hampered due to bad weather in the area. The IAF personnel are in constant contact with the families of these air-warriors and are being updated regularly about the ongoing operations. They are also being explained the challenges of the weather.

The air-warriors who lost their lives in the tragic accident crash are Wing Commander GM Charles, Squadron Leader H Vinod, Flight Lieutenant MK Garg, Flight Lieutenant S Mohanty, Flight Lieutenant A Tanwar, Flight Lieutenant R Thapa, Warrant Officer KK Mishra, Sergeant Anoop Kumar, Corporal Sherin, Leading Aircraftman SK Singh, Leading Aircraftman Pankaj, NC(E) Putali and NC(E) Rajesh Kumar.

On June 3, the aircraft with eight aircrew and five passengers on board took off from Air Force Station at Jorhat in Assam at 12.27 pm for Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground. The last contact with the aircraft was made at 12.55 pm.

On Tuesday, the wreckage of the aircraft was spotted 16 km north of Lipo, North East of Tato, Arunachal Pradesh at an approximate elevation of 12,000 ft by an IAF Mi-17 helicopter. Aerial operations were launched subsequently to the designated crash site however, due to the steep slope and thick forest the helicopter could not land near the crash site. Two km from the designated crash site, an area was designated and a camp was established for helicopters to land with the recovery parties.

On Wednesday, a team of nine IAF personnel (including mountaineers), four Army Special Forces personnel and two local mountaineers were dropped at the campsite. On Thursday, eight members of the rescue team reached the crash site in search of the survivors. Unfortunately no air-warrior survived the crash.

Thick vegetation, inhospitable terrain and inclement weather adversely affected the aerial search operation in the vast search zone. Despite the challenges posed by poor weather and terrain, IAF remained committed to the continued air and ground efforts throughout the day and night to locate the missing aircraft and its brave air-warriors. Extensive support towards rescue operation was provided by Indian Army, Indian Navy, Arunachal Pradesh government, state police and the locals.