Twelve days after a Dhruv helicopter of the Army Aviation Corps that had crashed into the Ranjit Sagar reservoir, the body of Lt Col AS Baath, one of the pilots onboard the ill-fated helicopter, was recovered on Sunday evening.
“Mortal remains of Lt Col AS Baath retrieved from a depth of 75.9 metre at 1819 hours (6.19 pm) from the Ranjit Sagar lake. Efforts to retrieve the mortal remains of the second pilot continue,” a senior Army officer said.
The body of the pilot was moved to the Military Hospital, Pathankot, for post mortem and other necessary procedures.
The search operation, which continued till about 7 pm, will resume tomorrow morning.
The Dhruv helicopter from an Army Aviation Corps squadron based at Pathankot had taken off on a routine sortie on August 3, when it crashed into the reservoir near Kathua in Jammu region. Only a part of the helicopter’s wreckage was recovered in the initial phase of the search.
Divers from the Navy and the Army’s Special Forces have been involved in the search operations using multi-beam sonars, side scanners, remotely operated vehicles and underwater manipulators which have been flown in from Chandigarh, Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi.
Yesterday, the IAF had airlifted a Submarine Rescue Unit of the Indian Navy from Vishakapatnam to the crash site to explore the digitally located wreckage at a depth of approximately 80 – 100 metre.
Earlier, a small area of 60 metre by 60 metre had been localised and special sonar equipment flown in from Kochi was employed to enable the search operations to enter the final phase. On August 11, the Army had stated that the wreckage had been identified at a depth of approximately 80 metre from the surface of the reservoir.
The expansive reservoir is 25 km long, 8 km wide and more than 150 metre deep. Besides the Army and the Navy, other agencies involved in the search operations include the National Disaster Relief Force, Ranjit Sagar Dam Authority and the local district administration as well as local residents.
Sources said this was the second incident involving a Dhruv helicopter from the same squadron in the past about six months. Another Dhruv from a different unit, also based at Pathankot, made a forced landing in the fields last week after suffering an oil leak, sources added.
Last week, Neel Joshi, the brother of the other missing pilot, had taken to the social media, highlighting the emotional trauma being faced by the families of the aircrew with search and rescue operations getting prolonged and little information emerging through official channels.