New Delhi, June 11 (PTI): The wreckage of the AN-32 aircraft of the Indian Air Force was spotted on Tuesday in a heavily forested mountainous terrain in Arunachal Pradesh, eight days after it went missing with 13 people on board after taking off from Assam’s Jorhat.
The IAF said efforts are on to establish the status of occupants amid fears of that chances of any survivor in the one of worst accidents involving a military platform in recent years may be very bleak.
“The wreckage of the aircraft was spotted today 16 kms North of Lipo, North East of Tato at an approximate elevation of 12,000 feet by an IAF Mi-17 helicopter undertaking search in the expanded search zone,” the IAF said in a statement.
“Efforts are now continuing to establish the status of occupants and establish survivors,” it said.
An IAF official said after identifying the wreckage of the AN 32, a Cheetah helicopter and an ALH chopper reached the crash site but could not land due to high elevation and dense forest.
“However, nearest landing site has been identified and the rescue operation by helicopters will commence tomorrow early morning. Ground forces will continue to reach the crash site during the night,” he said.
Another official said the IAF will send its special commandos ‘Garud’ to the crash site and carry out an exercise to look for possible survivors.
The Russian-origin AN-32 aircraft was going from Jorhat in Assam to Menchuka advanced landing ground near the border with China on June 3 when it lost contact with ground staff at 1 pm, within 33 minutes of taking off.
The IAF launched a massive operation after the aircraft went missing but the search was badly hit due to poor weather conditions.
The assets deployed for the operation included Sukhoi-30 aircraft in addition to a fleet of C-130J and AN-32 planes and Mi-17 and ALH helicopters. The ground forces included troops from the Army, Indo Tibetan Border Police and state police.
The Indian Navy’s P-8I aircraft was also deployed earlier this week as it has electro-optical and infra-red sensors which could be helpful in the search operation.
ISRO’s Cartosat and RISAT satellites were also used to take images of the area around Menchuka.
Deputy Commissioner of Siang district Rajeev Takuk said the wreckage of the aircraft was spotted near Pari hills which is close to Gatte village under Payum circle in Arunachal Pradesh.
“The wreckage was spotted near Pari hills, a few kilometres from Gatte village. However, the area is inaccessible as there is no road communication,” Takuk told PTI.
The IAF has been regularly updating the families of all those who were on board the AN-32 about the rescue operation.
Officials said a total of nine aircraft of the Indian Air Force were involved in accidents this year.
An AN-32 aircraft had crashed near a village in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh in June 2009 in which 13 defence personnel were killed.
The aircraft had crashed over the Rinchi Hill above Heyo village, about 30 km from Mechuka advance landing ground.
In July 2016, an AN-32 aircraft went missing after taking off from Chennai for Port Blair with 29 people on board.
The aircraft could not be traced even after weeks of massive search operations covering 2,17,800 square nautical miles by multiple aircraft.
Months later, an IAF court of inquiry concluded that it was unlikely that the missing personnel on board the aircraft would have survived the accident.