Missing IAF helicopter: possible debris spotted, crew’s fate unknown

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Itanagar, July 5 (IANS) Wreckage, possibly of the Indian Air Force helicopter which went missing in Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday, was spotted on Wednesday, but the fate of its three crew members is unknown, officials said.

“It appears that a wreckage of a helicopter has been spotted between Yupia and Hoj Telam in Papum Pare rural district. However, we are yet to confirm if the debris was of the missing IAF chopper,” state police chief Sandeep Goel told IANS.

He said the fate of the three crew members is not known.

Tezpur-based defence spokesperson, Lt Col Sombit Ghosh said that the IAF which conducted an aerial survey had “spotted something” which could be of the helicopter.

“We cannot confirm anything to you as yet. Let the search and rescue operation team in the ground reach the spot and ascertain what it is,” Ghosh told IANS.

Meanwhile, the rescue teams from the army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and police searching for the crew members and the helicopter suspended their operation for the day following darkness.

The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) of the IAF engaged in flood rescue mission in the state went missing at 3.50 p.m. on Tuesday after it took off from Pilputu Helipad near Sagalee for the Naharlagun heliport.

The helicopter was evacuating people stranded in Sagalee and Dambuk due to massive landslides caused by heavy rains.

Ghosh said the chopper had gone out for flood rescue operations from its base in Jorhat on Tuesday morning.

Papum Pare district official J.Pertin said the helicopter, used to evacuate people stranded due to floods in Sagalee, had made five sorties since it arrived there at around 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday.

“In the sixth sortie to Naharlagun, for unknown reason, the crew did not take the last batch of nine civilians and took off from Sagalee with just one policeman, who was deployed to help the two crew members and then went missing,” Pertin told IANS.

On Tuesday, Chief Minister Pema Khandu had said in a tweet that 169 persons had been evacuated from Sagalee and Dambuk by the Indian Air Force during the day till then.

Sagalee is just north of Itanagar while Dambuk in Lower Dibang Valley is about 350 km east of the state capital.

–IANS

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