The wreckage of an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter that went missing yesterday in Arunachal Pradesh during a flood rescue mission near Sagalee in Papum Pare district was found near its last known location, officials said today. The whereabouts of three crew member that were on board the chopper are unknown. The Army, the ITBP and the Arunachal Pradesh police had launched a massive search operation today to locate the IAF chopper.
"Wreckage of missing IAF Chopper found near Chopoyoha at Papum Pare dist in Arunachal Pradesh," IGP (Law & Order) Nabin Payeng was quoted as saying by PTI.
Earlier he told the news agency that security forces had formed search parties to locate the chopper.
"The search parties since morning are trekking through a hill near Kheel between Sagalee and Doimukh to locate the missing chopper. However, inclement weather is hampering the search and rescue operation," Payeng said.
The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) of the IAF engaged in flood rescue mission in the state went missing yesterday at 3.50 PM after it took off from Pilputu helipad near Sagalee. The helicopter was evacuating people stranded in Sagalee and Dambuk due to massive landslides caused by heavy rains.
Tezpur-based Defence spokesperson Lt. Col. Sombit Ghosh said the chopper had gone out for flood rescue operations from its base in Jorhat on Tuesday morning.
Sagalee additional deputy commissioner J Pertin said the IAF helicopter, which was pressed into evacuation of people stranded due to floods in the area, had made five sorties since it arrived there at around 10.30 AM on Tuesday. "In the sixth sortie to Naharlagun, the crew for unknown reasons did not take the last batch of nine civilians and took off from Sagalee," he added.
Chief Minister Pema Khandu had yesterday tweeted: "Successfully evacuated 169 stranded people that include women, children from flood affected areas of Sagalee and Dambuk through IAF."
Sagalee is north of Itanagar, while Dambuk in lower Dibang Valley district is about 350 km east from here.
In May, an Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30 fighter jet with two pilots crashed near the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.
In 2015, a Pawan Hans helicopter with three persons on board, including Tirap Deputy Commissioner Kamlesh Joshi, crashed in a dense jungle. Joshi was killed in the crash.
In 2011, the then Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others died after their Pawan Hans chopper crashed at a remote location in the state.
A few days later, another helicopter crashed while landing in Tawang, killing 16 people.
Following the crashes, commercial chopper services were stopped in the state till 2013 when Pawan Hans restarted the service in Arunachal Pradesh and other parts of the region.
Pawan Hans Helicopter Services Limited (PHHL) has been operating chopper services across Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura and daily Guwahati-Tawang services for over 15 years.
It is one of the major lifelines in the landlocked and mountainous Arunachal Pradesh.