After eight days of extensive searching that involved both air and ground assets, the wreckage of the missing An-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force was spotted Tuesday deep in the high mountains of Arunachal Pradesh, close to the China border. IAF spokesperson Wg Cdr Ratnakar Singh said mountaineering teams of the IAF, Army and civil administration would be flown to the site in helicopters Wednesday “to look for survivors and other things”. The aircraft was carrying 13 people on board.
“The wreckage of the aircraft was spotted today 16 km north of Lipo, north east of Tato at an approximate elevation of 12,000 ft by the IAF Mi-17 helicopter undertaking search in the expanded search zone. Efforts are now continuing to establish the status of occupants and establish survivors. Further details will be communicated as the recovery actions progress.” Officials said the wreckage site is mountain terrain and during the elections, a poll team had to trek for three days to reach a village in the area.
The An-32, which took off from Assam’s Jorhat base around 12.30 pm on June 3, never reached the Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground in Shi Yomi district. The aircraft’s last contact with ground staff was at 1 pm. There were 13 people on board the aircraft. Tato is the headquarters of Shi Yomi district created last December. Shi Yomi borders China to the north and is one of the remotest locations in the Himalayan state. Siang Deputy Commissioner Rajiv Takuk told The Indian Express: “As per my knowledge, the wreckage has been detected on a hill and if it’s on the southeastern side of the hill, it’s in Siang or else in Shi Yomi. As the crow flies, the location will probably be 30-40 km from the McMahon Line, but on foot it will take days. It’s a very difficult area with no communication or habitation. It is 100 per cent mountainous and dotted with ravines and gorges. Personnel and resources from the Army, ITBP, Indian Navy, ISRO, state police and district administration, have been looking for the missing plane using aircraft like the C-130J, Su-30MKI, the navy’s P8i long-range reconnaissance aircraft, Dhruv, Mi-17 and Cheetah helicopters besides satellite photography.
Local communities, including hunters and experts in mountain climbing were also roped in to help the army. The Indian Air Force will now look for the Cockpit Voice Recorder and the Flight Data Recorder to determine the cause behind the crash and the actions of the crew.