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Jaguar pilot body, debris found

April 3: Rescue teams today traced the wreckage of the two Jaguars that crashed on the snowy peaks of Sonamarg, near the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, yesterday and recovered the body of one of the pilots.

The body was flown to Srinagar, where medical records confirmed his identity as Flight Lieutenant M. Mayur, official sources said.

The remains of the second Jaguar were spotted nearly 1 km away from the first wreckage site near Shutkari, 3 km north of Sonamarg. But they could not be reached as they were lying in a deep gorge at 13,000 ft above sea level and the teams had to call off the operation this evening due to darkness and extreme cold.

Early this morning, the Indian Air Force pressed choppers into service for the search and rescue operation.

The helicopter crew identified the mangled remains of the two Jaguars, known as the sword of justice in the Indian Air Force, but were unable to land because of heavy snow — more than 4 metres deep — and fog enveloping the area.

“The helicopter pilots sighted parts of aircraft strewn on deep snow amid rocky patches but there was no space to allow the choppers to land and investigate,” an air force spokesman said in New Delhi.

Teams from the High Altitude Warfare School of the army and the police, led by Ganderbal senior superintendent Shafqat Wattali, took over from there. Assisted by villagers and guided by the choppers, the teams trekked six hours this morning to reach the first Jaguar.

Wattali said this evening the operation would be resumed with first light tomorrow.

“We will try to reach the second wreckage site tomorrow. However, the deep snow is hampering our effort, but still we will try our best to reach there tomorrow,” he added.

Wing commander Ram Pratap, who is heading the inquiry ordered by the air force into the crashes, reached Sonamarg this afternoon.

Four Jaguars had taken off on a routine sortie when they hit bad weather in the mountains. While two of them managed to return to the Srinagar airport, the other two lost contact with the ground control and went missing.

Till late last night, IAF officials were reluctant to commit on the fate of the two Jaguars, but had expressed fears that the deep-penetrating aircraft might have crashed on the assumptions that the two did not have the endurance capacity to remain airborne for such a long period.

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