1968 plane crash victim’s remains recovered
Shimla: An Indian Army expedition retrieved mortal remains of a victim of an Indian Air Force transport aircraft that crashed 1968 in Himachal Pradesh, the Indian Army said Saturday. A total of 98 army personnel and four crew members were killed when the Indian Air Force AN-12 aircraft crashed on the 17,400-feet high Dhakka Glacier in the Chanderbhaga ranges of Lahaul and Spiti district Feb 7, 1968. Despite three search missions till 2009, only four bodies could be recovered.
"After 45-and-a-half years, an Indian Army expedition Aug 22 recovered the mortal remains of a non-commissioned officer, Hav Jagmail Singh of Corps of EME," said an official statement by the Chandimandir-based Western Command headquarters. An identity disk, an insurance policy and a letter from his family retrieved from his pocket helped identify him, the statement said.
"The remains are being brought to Chandimandir Military Station (in Chandigarh) Saturday from where it will be taken to his native place Meerpur village in Rewari district of Haryana for the last rites," it said. The aircraft had taken off from Chandigarh for Leh. Halfway, pilot Flt Lt H.K. Singh decided to turn back due to the inclement weather over Jammu and Kashmir.
The last radio contact was near the Rohtang Pass and thereafter the aircraft appeared to have vanished into thin air. The disappearance remained a mystery until 2003 when an expedition team accidentally discovered the debris at the Dhakka Glacier. The Indian Army Aug 16 this year embarked on another expedition to try and locate the mortal remains of its fallen comrades as also to recover the flight data recorder (black box).
The expedition of the Dogra Scouts of the Western Command comprised the finest mountaineers of the country, including an Everester. "The glacier where the operations are underway lies at an altitude of approximately 17,000-18,000 feet, is avalanche-prone and dotted with innumerable crevasses. The site itself is at an 80 degree gradient from the base camp," the statement said.
The high wind velocities and sub-zero temperatures restrict the search window to about 15-20 days a year and that too only for a few hours during the day. The team braving all odds and in the face of extremely hostile weather conditions continued its mission till Aug 30, it added.