18 August 2019
Chandigarh: An expedition by the Dogra Scouts has recovered parts of an Indian Air Force AN-12 transport aircraft that crashed in the icy mountains of Himachal Pradesh 51 years ago, killing all 102 people on board, the Indian Army said on Sunday.
The Western Command launched an operation on July 26 to recover the mortal remains of over 90 missing soldiers who were onboard the AN-12 BL-534 aircraft which went missing over the Rohtang Pass in Kullu district on February 7, 1968.
After 13 days of rigorous search and recovery operation in the Dhaka Glacier at an altitude of 5,240 metres, the team recovered parts of the aircraft like the aero engine, fuselage, electric circuits, propeller, fuel tank unit, air brake assembly and a cockpit door, it said in a statement.
Personal belongings of passengers were also recovered.
The search area, including location of recoveries, has been mapped for future reference, the Army said.
The expedition was joined by a team of Indian Air Force on August 6 to augment the operation.
The glacier had high levels of snow accumulation due to old avalanches, precipitous gradients, avalanche-prone slopes and open crevasses along the course which made movement of the team extremely difficult and energy sapping.
The aircraft went missing over the Rohtang Pass on its way back to Chandigarh Air Force base.
Since the crash, there were rumours that the aircraft might have strayed into enemy territory and may have been forced to land in enemy territory with all the onboard passengers being taken as prisoners of war.
However, the mystery of the missing airplane was finally solved as a mountaineering expedition in 2003 stumbled on the debris of the plane near Dhaka Glacier, and found the identity card of a soldier was on board the missing aircraft.
This discovery gave a fresh ray of hope to the families of the missing passengers that the bodies would be recovered for performing the last rites.
Since then, numerous search missions have been launched to recover the bodies of the missing soldiers. However, only five bodies have been found till date.