Summit of CB-13, ID of soldier killed in 1968 Spiti crash found

July 30, 2012 at 5:49 am


Our sincere thanks to THE TIMES OF INDIA for the publication of article on NALS Trainers after the Summit achievement on CB-13.

MANALI: Forty-four years after an IAF aircraft crashed with 98 soldiers and four crew members on board, trekkers have stumbled upon an identity card of a missing jawan and debris of the plane near Dhaka glacier in Chandra-Bhaga ranges of Spiti. The discovery has given a fresh ray of hope to the victims’ families of retrieving their missing kins’ bodies.

The Indian Air Force’s AN-12-BL-534 aircraft went down on February 7, 1968. And last week, three youths – Deena Nath, Kamlesh Kumar and Kuber Kumar — from Manali accidently found the scattered wreckage, including machine parts, clothes, documents and human remains, during their CB-13 peak climbing expedition.

They also discovered an identity card of a soldier, Arjun Singh from Pune, with ASC (Army Service Corp) written on it. The trekkers said they would have salvaged more but had to return to base camp due to lack of time and rations.

“There are lots of things scattered around the valley and melting snow has exposed them,” said expedition coordinator Deena. Searching for the remains of the soldiers should not prove very difficult this year, he added.

Since the crash, only four bodies have been recovered and 98 bodies are still beneath the snow. Their families are writing to the government to launch a search and bring the bodies back for last rites. After half a dozen searches by the military failed to yield results, the operation was called off in 2009. Now when most people have forgotten about the accident, the recovery of the identity card has sent a wave of hope among the relatives.

Kamlesh said Dhaka glacier, at a height of 16,000 feet, has receded and exposed vast areas. “Plane debris are lying there which could be helpful in establishing the cause of the crash. We found a bunch of human hair too,” he added. Youths have handed over the documents to Manali sub-divisional magistrate for further action.

The ill-fated aircraft carrying 102 passengers, including four crew members, 92 Army and six IAF personnel, had taken off from Chandigarh to Leh. Minutes before landing, the pilot — flight lieutenant HK Singh — was radioed to return to Chandigarh due to inclement weather. The flight took a U-turn and lost contact with the radio operator after some time.

The flight’s disappearance remained a mystery for 35 years until mountaineers from Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali, recovered its wreckage and a body, identified as Beli Ram, resident of Akhnoor, in 2003. In August 2007, three more bodies were accidentally recovered. Search for the bodies has been stopped since 2009.

The plane is believed to have crashed at the base of CB-13, which is 20,200 feet tall. “The wreckage should be collected or disposed off as it would be good for the trekkers and the environment,” Kuber Kumar said.