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Search for two rescuers killed in crash

18 of 20 bodies found: ITBP

Dehradun, June 29: The Indo-Tibetan Border Police will send a “special” search party to look for the bodies of two rescuers who were on the air force helicopter that crashed this week while returning from Kedarnath.

Two days after the June 25 crash, an Indian Air Force spokesperson had said search parties had found the remains of all 20 rescue personnel drawn from the air force, the ITBP and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

But the ITBP today put out a media release saying DIG Prem Singh would lead a special search party to look for two bodies not found by the army’s paracommandos and the IAF Garud contingent.

“Out of 20 rescuers travelling in the ill-fated helicopter only 18 bodies have been found. Search for locating two more bodies is still on. To search (the) remaining 2 bodies, ITBP is organising a special search operation under the leadership of renowned mountaineer Prem Singh, DIG, ITBP,” the release said.

The fresh search appears to be an attempt to assuage doubts in the minds of the families of the ITBP and NDRF martyrs about missing bodies and identification.

The ITBP also said the identities of four of its troopers and some others of the NDRF were yet to be ascertained. To ascertain the identities, blood samples of their family members have been sent to the Centre for DNA Finger Printing and Diagnostics, Hyderabad.

ITBP jawans pay their respects to inspector Bhim Singh during his funeral at Bobiyan village in Jammuís Kathua district on Saturday; (above) family members of Flight Lieutenant K Praveen mourn in Madurai on Saturday. (PTI)

“Similar DNA profiling is being done for unidentified bodies of NDRF martyrs,” the ITBP said in the release.

The number of unidentified NDRF personnel is not known, but sources said K.M. Singh, member of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), had met family members of nine personnel who died in the crash.

The crash took place around 1pm when the helicopter, piloted by Wing Commander Darryl Castelino, was returning from Kedarnath after dropping men and wood for mass pyres.

Following the crash, a team of Garud commandos was dropped at the site while another group of paracommandos was dispatched from Gaurikund, a few kilometres away, to search for the bodies.

The operation lasted two days as the chopper debris lay on a thickly forested steep slope and the iron parts of the aircraft had to be cut to extricate the bodies.

As several of the bodies were charred, identification is difficult.

Yesterday, at the Gadi Camp near Dehradun, Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and army chief Gen. Bikram Singh had saluted the martyrs.

Apart from five IAF personnel, the others on the Mi-17 V5 that crashed were six rescuers from the ITBP and nine NDRF personnel.

Two of the six ITBP personnel who died in the crash have been cremated.