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101 dead: 36 yrs on, still no news
Relatives of the pilot of a military aircraft that went missing in Himachal Pradesh 36 years ago want the Indian Air Force (IAF) to do more to locate the bodies of the 102 victims who were on board.

"The IAF has not done enough for us. We cannot rest till the time the bodies of the crash victims are recovered and they are cremated with full honours," said Harbans Singh Sawhney, elder brother of Flt Lt H K Singh who was piloting the AN-12 aircraft on February 7, 1968, when it went missing over Lahaul valley.

"I am writing to the Defence Minister and the air chief to help locate bodies of the victims so that their families can cremate them," 75-year old Sawhney said.

He said the families were not satisfied with the search operations done by defence authorities immediately after the crash and again last year when the body of a soldier, Beli Ram, was recovered by a mountaineering expedition near Dakka glacier in the vicinity of the Rohtang Pass.

The body was found at an altitude of 14,000-ft on the Lahaul side of the pass.

Another trekking expedition last week found wreckage of the aircraft, leading the families of the victims to renew their pleas that the bodies are recovered.

None of those on the plane had survived the crash.

Initially it was thought that the aircraft could have ventured into Chinese territory and the defence personnel on board had been taken prisoner.

Search operations were launched once again last year by a team from the army and air force but adverse weather conditions halted the operation.

Search operations were re-launched after 35 years following information that the wreckage of the aircraft could be in the vicinity of the glacier.

These were abandoned again due to bad weather.

IAF search operations in 1968 had failed to even locate the wreckage of the aircraft as it had mysteriously disappeared over the snow covered peaks.

The aircraft, belonging to 25 Squadron of the IAF, was on a sortie from the air force base here to Leh. It was carrying four crew and 98 army personnel. Unable to make a landing at Leh due to unfavourable weather conditions, the aircraft was returning to Chandigarh base with another aircraft of the same type when contact was abruptly lost and it went missing.

The AN-12 version of military transport aircraft of Russian were inducted in the IAF in 1961 and phased out in 1993.

Singh had been named for the Vayu Sena Medal in 1967 but his father received the award only after his death.

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Posted by Jehangir Unwalla @ 7:28 AM

 

 
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