President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday condoled the loss of lives in an IAF helicopter crash near Gaurikund in Uttarakhand.
The Prime Minister spoke to Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne, who was in the state to boost the morale of the personnel, while Pranab conveyed his condolences in a message wherein he saluted “the IAF’s determination to continue operations”.
While reports suggested that there were 20 people onboard the ill-fated Russian-made Mi-17 V5 helicopter, rescue workers have found only 12 bodies till the last report came in. They also recovered the helicopter’s cockpit voice recorder.
The IAF sources said the deceased in Tuesday’s crash were Wing Commander Darryl Castelino, Flight Lieutenant K Praveen, Flight Lieutenant Tapan Singh, Junior Warrant Officer A K Singh and Sergeant Sudhakar Yadav. Apart from five IAF and six ITBP personnel, nine from the National Disaster Relief Force were onboard the crashed helicopter.
In his message to Browne, Pranab said: “In this moment of grief, I offer my most profound condolences to the grieving families of the victims...”
The IAF’s determination to “keep moving on” irrespective of the tragedy and until the last stranded pilgrim is rescued is in the finest traditions of the Indian Armed Forces, he said.
The President told the IAF chief to inform the air warriors that his “thoughts and prayers” were with them.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was in Kashmir, told Browne to extend condolences to the families of the deceased IAF personnel. Browne, who had reached Gauchar in the morning, ruled out the possibility of any of the 20 men surviving the crash. He could not go to the crash site due to bad weather and instead visited Jolly Grant to meet with IAF and ITBP personnel.
Browne said it would be premature to comment whether technical reason or bad weather resulted in the crash. On when the rescue operations would be completed, Browne said: “If the weather starts improving by Friday or so, then by Monday-Tuesday we should have all this tasks finished.”
“... most of the work has already been done. It is now a question of getting the people out from Badrinath and Harsil sectors,” he added. However, an overcast sky and low visibility prevailed over the state throughout the day, coming in the way of full-fledged operations by helicopters.