ID-card may reveal mystery of crashed AN-12 aircraft

Last Updated: Wed, Aug 01, 2012 07:00 hrs

Manali (Himachal Pradesh), Aug 1 (IANS) A frayed identity card bearing the name Arjun Singh of Pune may reveal the 45-year-old mystery crash of an AN-12 aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) into the snow-capped mountain of Lahaul Valley of Himachal Pradesh.

A group of trekkers, from local mountaineering institute NALS Outdoor India Private Ltd., has found the identity card of Arjun Singh, aircraft wreckage, shoes and clothes spread over a glaciated area at an altitude of over 17,500 feet near the Chandrabhaga peak.

Trekker and expedition leader Dinanath Thakur told IANS Wednesday that during descent of the majestic CB-13 peak (Chandrabhaga peak 13), located at an altitude of 6,164 metres or 20,624 ft, they found the debris of an aircraft scattered over Dakka Glacier July 15.

"We have handed over the identity card to sub-divisional magistrate on return to Manali," he added.

The other two members of the expedition were Kamlesh Kumar and Kuber Kumar.

The AN-12 aircraft of the IAF had taken off from Chandigarh Feb 7, 1968, on a routine logistics sortie with 102 people on board to Leh in Jammu and Kashmir.

The aircraft, according to the IAF, was not able to negotiate the bad weather en-route and hit the Chandrabhaga peak. There were no survivors of the crash.

It was only in July 2003 that an expedition from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports in Manali discovered the wreckage site. The team also found the mortal remains and documents of Pioneer Beli Ram. His remains were moved to his native village in Akhnoor and cremated with full military honours.

Subsequently, the Indian Army has launched expeditions every summer to recover bodies of the lost soldiers.

Code named Operation Punaruthan-III, an expedition of the army retrieved three bodies Aug 9, 2007, near the Chandrabhaga peak.

The cause of the crash is still a mystery as the black box (flight data recorder) has not been recovered.

Thakur, who is currently on another mountaineering expedition in Leh and is to return to Manali Aug 8, said: "There are chances that aircraft's major portion could be located in the glacier's southern portion where the debris was spotted."

"It seemed that the glacier mass was thinned more this season compared to the previous years. This might help the subsequent search parties of the army to recover more human remains and other vital aircraft parts," he added.

Manali sub-divisional magistrate Balbir Thakur, who was given the identity card by the trekkers, Wednesday handed it over to Col. Arun Kainthla, Administrative Commandant posted at army transit camp at Palchan, some nine km from here.

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