Rescued Siachen soldier loses battle for life

New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad, who was rescued alive after being buried under snow for six days in the world’s highest battlefield, the Siachen glacier, died on Thursday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “Proud that martyrs like you served India.”

Lance Naik Koppad, 33, was flown down to the Army Hospital (Research and Referral), where he battled for life for two days.

He died at 11.45 a.m. on Thursday, plunging his earnestly-praying family into gloom.

A doctor told IANS the soldier died of multi-organ failure.

The soldier’s last rites will be performed at his home town in Karnataka, said an army spokesperson. He hailed from Betadur village in Dharwad district.

Koppad was found from under 35 feet of snow and hardened ice at an avalanche-hit army post in the Siachen glacier in Jammu and Kashmir — six days after an enormous snow wall came crashing down with a massive roar on the post he and nine other soldiers were occupying.

The bodies of the other nine have been found.

Lance Naik Koppad’s death was condoled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and the army chief, General Dalbir Singh.

Modi tweeted: “He leaves us sad & devastated. RIP Lance Naik Hanumanthappa. The soldier in you remains immortal. Proud that martyrs like you served India.”

Parrikar offered condolences to his family and said: “The nation salutes him.”

General Dalbir Singh said: “The soldier in him will continue to inspire generations.”

Bollywood celebrities too offered their condolences.

Millions across the country had prayed that he recovers. But, that was not to be.

The soldier’s health took a turn for the worse early Thursday.

Doctors in the morning said that he was extremely critical, with worsening multi-organ dysfunction.

Lance Naik Koppad suffered from pneumonia which had worsened and the blood clotting disorder showed no sign of reversal despite blood component support.

Koppad’s family, including his wife, were staying in the hospital complex. He is survived by a two-year-old daughter.

The soldier was serving in the high altitude Siachen glacier from August 2015 and was chosen for deployment on one of the highest posts, encountering temperatures well below minus 40 degrees Celsius and winds up to 100 km per hour.

He, along with other soldiers, was at Indian Army’s Sonam Post — the highest permanently manned post in the world located at over 19,000 feet.

Koppad has served in difficult and challenging areas for 10 out of 13 years of his total service.

His postings include Jammu and Kashmir from 2003 to 2006, where he was actively involved in counter-insurgency operations.

He again volunteered to serve with the 54 Rashtriya Rifles (Madras) in Jammu and Kashmir from 2008 to 2010, and later in the northeast from 2010 to 2012 where he took part in operations against militants.

He was serving in the high-altitude areas of Siachen glacier from August 2015.

Siachen glacier is the world’s highest battlefield, with both Indian and Pakistani troops stationed there.

Siachen glacier is one of the five largest glaciers in the Karakoram range, situated at an average altitude of 17,700 feet above sea level and is hotly contested by India and Pakistan. It separates central Asia from the Indian subcontinent, and Pakistan from China in this region.

A truce has been in place on the glacier since 2003.

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