Pune: The body of a 29-year-old Indian Air Force (IAF) man from Ratnagiri district, who was missing after the IAF advanced light helicopter (ALH) crashed on July 4 during a rescue mission in Arunachal Pradesh, was found on Saturday night.
The deceased, Flight Engineer Sergeant Rajendra Yashwant Gujar, was a resident of Palwani-Jambhulnagar in Mandangad taluka of Ratnagiri district. His body is expected to reach home for the last rites on Monday. The family has a tradition of serving in the armed forces.
Rajendra’s father, Yashwant Gujar, has retired from the Army while his elder brother Shyam is currently serving in the Army. Gujar had studied in New English School, Palwani, till Standard X. He passed his HSC (Science) from Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar College in Mandangad. Rajendra got recruited in the IAF while still in college.
The chopper was requisitioned for evacuation of persons stranded in Sagalee in Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after the road to Seppa was washed off by landslides triggered by heavy rains. It had airlifted 52 persons in five trips before crashing. On the sixth sortie to Sagalee village, the weather worsened and the team decided not to risk civilians’ lives and did not take people on board. Within minutes after taking off from the village, the ground station lost contact with them. The crew had rescued a total of 169 people in three days.
The three IAF crew members, who were on board the ill-fated chopper, were Wing Commander MS Dhillon, the pilot, Flight Lieutenant PK Singh and Flight Engineer Sergeant Gujar. The fourth occupant has been identified as Nada Umbing, an IRB man from Hija village in Lower Subansiri district. He was deployed in Papum Pare district to evacuate people stranded due to landslides.
The wreckage of the IAF chopper was first sighted in the Sopo Yuha area on Wednesday morning by residents of Hostalam. A group of local youths had trekked down a deep gorge to reach the crash site and sent out the first visuals taken with their mobile phone cameras. The crash site, where a waterfall meets a river between two mountain ranges, is about 30 km north of state capital Itanagar.