The India Air Force ( IAF ) AN-32 aircraft, with 13 people on board, went missing on June 3 afternoon, near China border in Arunachal Pradesh.
The Indian Air Force on Thursday said that six bodies have been recovered from the crash site of AN-32 in Arunachal Pradesh. According to news agency ANI, remains of seven others were also found at the site.
The AN-32 went missing in 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 June 11 at a height of 12,000 feet near Gatte village on the border of Siang and Shi-Yomi districts. All 13 on board the aircraft were killed in the crash, the air force later confirmed.
The assets deployed for the operation included Sukhoi-30 aircraft in addition to a fleet of C-130J and AN-32 planes and Mi-17 and ALH helicopters. The ground forces included troops from the Army, Indo Tibetan Border Police and state police.
The Indian Navy’s P-8I aircraft was also deployed earlier this week as it has electro-optical and infra-red sensors which could be helpful in the search operation. ISRO’s Cartosat and RISAT satellites were also used to take images of the area around Mechuka.
Earlier, 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 over the Rinchi Hill above Heyo village, about 30 km from Mechuka advance landing ground.
In July 2016, an AN-32 aircraft went missing after taking off from Chennai for Port Blair with 29 people on board. The aircraft could not be traced even after weeks of massive search operations covering 2,17,800 square nautical miles by multiple aircraft.
Months later, an IAF court of inquiry concluded that it was unlikely that the missing personnel on board the aircraft would have survived the accident.
The AN-32’s crash has sparked the debate over viability of the Russian-origin planes in the IAF fleet. Later, IAF chief BS Dhanoa had said that, “We have recovered the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder…We will go into the detail (to ascertain) as to what happened and how do we make sure that it does not happen again.
” Dhanoa had also added that, “in Arunachal Pradesh, the way we fly, the terrain is very treacherous and most of the time, it is cloudy…When you are flying in that terrain, in that cloudy weather, there have been many, many, not only Air Force, even otherwise, Pawan Hans and all, lot of accidents, because of controlled flight into terrain.”
Noting that there were procedures to make sure such accidents do not recur, he said, “need to review what happened and we don’t have such an accident again.”