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Mortal remains of all 13 air warriors on AN-32 retrieved from Arunachal Pradesh crash site

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. 

Mortal remains of all 13 air warriors on AN-32 retrieved from Arunachal Pradesh crash site
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The mortal remains of all the 13 air warriors, who were on board the ill-fated Indian Air Force's AN-32 aircraft that crashed in Arunachal Pradesh, was retrieved on Thursday. While bodies of six air warriors were retrieved, the mortal remains of the other seven air warriors were recovered, after more than a fortnight. 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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The successful operation comes a day after 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 plan for trekking to the site was initiated when the inclement weather hampered the recovery operations and did not allow any helicopter to fly, according to Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh, Shillong-based IAF spokesperson on Tuesday. 

"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.

Thick vegetation, inhospitable terrain and inclement weather adversely affected the aerial search and recovery 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. Extensive support towards rescue operation was provided by Indian Army, Indian Navy, Arunachal Pradesh government, state police and the locals.

Inclement weather in the valleys and cloud cover over the crash site made it impossible for the team to reach the crash site in the last. 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 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 11, 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 June 12, a team of nine IAF personnel (including mountaineers), four Army Special Forces personnel and two local mountaineers were dropped at the campsite. On June 13, eight members of the rescue team reached the crash site in search of the survivors but unfortunately no air-warrior survived the crash. The team had recovered the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) of the Russian-origin aircraft at the crash site.