The wreckage of the IAF AN-32 transport aircraft, carrying 13 defence personnel, was found on Wednesday (June 10) at a village in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, a day after it went missing, police said. The defence personnel were feared to have died when the aircraft crashed over Rinchi hill above Heyo village, 60 km from Mechuka in the district, located closed to China border, they said.

Though a wireless message, received at the SP’s office at district headquarters Aalo, confirmed the recovery of the wreckage, there was no word about any recovery of human remains. The aircraft was on a routine food supply sortie and was carrying seven IAF personnel and six army personnel, an IAF spokesman said.

The message, sent by the officer in-charge of Mechuka police station, said two search parties of the Army and the border guarding paramilitary force, ITBP, left for the village this morning. The police quoted some local people saying that they saw smoke billowing after a very loud sound from the distant hills.

Among the IAF men on board were two wing commanders, two squadron leaders and a flight lieutenant. The plane had taken off from the Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh to Jorhat in Assam at around 2 pm yesterday after which it went missing.

The AN-32, belonging to Rowriah air base in Jorhat, had started its sortie from Mohanbari in upper Assam’s Dibrugarh district and had carried essential commodities to the army base near Mecheka. Bad weather had hampered the search operations as an IAF helicopter — MI 17 — had to return from the Mechuka-Jorhat route and the operation was suspended for sometime.

This afternoon, another helicopter left for the area, Defence spokesperson Wing Commander Ranjib Sahoo said at the IAF Eastern Command Headquarters in Shillong. The aircraft was scheduled to reach Jorhat at about 3.30 PM, but it did not respond to Air Traffic Control, Sahoo said. The Indian Air Force conducted an air reconnaissance yesterday afternoon in the Arunachal hills, but could not locate it nor found any wreckage, the spokesman said.

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