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All 13 air warriors on board dead in AN-32 crash: IAF

All 13 air-warriors on board an AN-32 transport aircraft that crashed in a heavily forested mountainous area in Arunachal Pradesh 10 days back were killed, the Indian Air Force said Thursday.

Official sources said the “black box” of the aircraft has been recovered from the crash site and it will help the investigators reconstruct the events leading to the crash.

The IAF has already ordered a court of inquiry into the accident, one of the worst involving a military aircraft in recent years.

The Russian-origin aircraft went missing on the afternoon of June 3, around 33 minutes after taking off from Jorhat in Assam for Menchuka in Arunachal Pradesh.

After eight days of a massive search operation, the wreckage of the plane was spotted by an IAF chopper on Tuesday at a height of 12,000 ft near Gatte village on the border of Siang and Shi-Yomi districts.

“On 13 Jun 19, eight members of the rescue team reached the crash site in search of the survivors. Unfortunately no air-warrior survived the crash,” the IAF said in a statement.

The air-warriors who were killed in the crash were 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 and Leading Aircraftman Pankaj.

Two non-combatants Putali and Rajesh Kumar also died in the crash.

“IAF pays tribute to the brave air-warriors who lost their life in the line of duty. IAF is making all efforts to recover the mortal remains. No effort is being spared in ensuring expeditious transfer of the mortal remains of the air-warriors to their parent base at Jorhat,” the IAF said.

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 about 30 km from Menchuka.

Sources said a number of additional personnel will join the eight rescuers on Friday to retrieve the bodies of the 13 people.

The mortal remains are expected to be flown out of the crash site by Friday, said an official.

After the aircraft went missing, the IAF launched an extensive search operation involving a fleet of C-130J, Su-30 and AN-32 aircraft. A fleet of Mi-17 and ALH helicopters had also joined the search operation.

Thick vegetation and inhospitable terrain coupled with inclement weather had adversely affected the aerial search operation.

After the wreckage was spotted, helicopters were sent but they could not land as the crash site has a steep slope and thick forest.

Two km from the designated crash site, an area was designated and a camp was established for helicopters to land with the recovery parties.

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