Team reaches AN-32 crash site for retrieval of bodies, in touch with IAF through satellite phones

All of them are safe and sound, said the IAF.

The operation to retrieve the bodies of the 13 air warriors on board the ill-fated Indian Air Force's AN-32 aircraft that crashed in Arunachal Pradesh on June 3 saw the light of the day as a ground team successfully reached the crash site on Wednesday. The team comprised 20 members--four Garud commandos of the IAF, four Special Forces of the Army, a civilian hunter and 11 porters. The team has been in constant touch with the IAF through I-com and satellite phones. All of them are safe and sound, said the IAF.

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The plan for trekking to the site was initiated when the inclement weather continued to hamper the recovery operations and did not allow any helicopter to fly, according to Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh, Shillong-based IAF spokesperson on Tuesday. The operation remained suspended on Tuesday due to bad weather conditions

"The trekking team has 20 members--4 Garud commandos of IAF, 4 from Special forces of Army, 1 civilian hunter and 11 porters. They plan was initiated when the weather and clouds did not allow any helicopter flying. The team was formed the day before yesterday and started trekking," said the release on Tuesday.

He also said that helicopters, including Mi17s, Cheetah and ALH have been unable to approach the site during the last three days, because of inclement weather in the valleys and cloud cover over the crash site. Retrieval operations require the steep mountainsides to be visible for the helicopters to safely hover close to the crash site and for operating crew to be able to see the personnel on the ground.

"The IAF has actively coordinated with state administration at all levels. A ground team comprising Garud commandos of the IAF, SF of Indian Army, civilian porters and hunters is already on its way to the accident site on foot. The first element of this trekking party is likely to reach the site late on June 19," added the release.

"No efforts are being spared by IAF personnel to ensure that the mortal remains of their brothers in arms are retrieved at the earliest. The Army and Arunachal Pradesh state administration has all along have provided unflinching support," further added the release.

"The wreckage of the missing AN-32 was located by a Mi-17 helicopter on June 11, following which the team of 15 mountaineers was dropped near the crash site the very next day. Later, three more mountaineers joined the rescue team. The mortal remains of air warriors, FDR and CVR were recovered at the site," said the release.

A rescue team had recovered the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) of the Russian-origin aircraft at the crash site Friday. The Indian Air Force Thursday said all the 13 people on board the aircraft had died. The transporter aircraft was going from Jorhat in Assam to Menchuka advanced landing ground near the border with China on June 3 when it had lost contact around half-an-hour after taking off. 

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