Mortal remains of 1968 plane crash victim recovered

September 2, 2013

An army expedition retrieved mortal remains of a victim of an Indian Air Force transport aircraft, crashed in 1968 in the icy terrain of Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh.

An official of arms based at Chandimandir- Western Command headquarters, Pavitra Singh told that the mortal remains were brought to Chandimandir Military Station (in Chandigarh) on Saturday from where it was taken to his native place Meerpur village in Rewari district of Haryana for last rites.

Earlier, only four bodies were recovered in many expeditions till 2009. On Aug 22, after a period of 45 years, 6 months, an Indian Army expedition recovered the mortal remains of a non commissioned officer, Hav Jagmail Singh of Corps of EME.

The identity of the crash victim was established by an identity disk, an insurance policy and a letter from his family which were retrieved from his pocket.

On a freezing February morning in 1968, an AN-12 transport aircraft took off from Chandigarh and headed towards Leh. On board the aircraft were 98 army personnel and four crew members, on their way to join their duties. Halfway to Leh, the pilot Flt Lt H.K. Singh decided to turn back due to the inclement weather over Jammu and Kashmir.

The aircraft made last radio contact near the Rohtang Pass and thereafter appeared to have vanished into thin air. The disappearance remained a mystery until 2003, when the debris of the ill-fated aircraft was accidentally discovered by an expedition team at the Dhakka glacier, high in the Chandrabhaga ranges of Lahaul and Spiti. Since then and over the course of three search missions till 2009, four bodies have been recovered, the army said.

On Aug 16 this year, the Indian Army embarked on another expedition to try and locate the mortal remains of its fallen comrades and also to try and recover the flight data recorder (black box).

The expedition of the Dogra Scouts of the Western Command comprised of the finest mountaineers of the country including a person who had climbed to Mt. Everest.

“The glacier where the operations are underway, lies at an altitude of approximately 17,000-18,000 feet, is avalanche prone and dotted with innumerable crevasses. The site itself is at an 80 degrees gradient from the base camp,” it said.

The high wind velocities, sub-zero temperatures, restricts the search window to about 15-20 days a year and that too only for a few hours during the day. The team braving all odds and in the face of extremely hostile weather conditions continued its mission till Aug 30, it added.

A total of 98 army personnel and four crew members were killed when the Indian Air Force AN-12 aircraft crashed on the 17,400-feet high Dhakka Glacier in the Chandrabhaga ranges in Lahaul and Spiti district Feb 7, 1968.

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