Late Wing Commander Mandeep Singh Dhillon with his family. Telegraph picture
Guwahati, July 15: For Wing Commander Mandeep Singh Dhillon, duty came before family obligations.
On July 4, Dhillon was supposed to take his daughter Sehaj to a medical centre at Tezpur air station in Assam as she was suffering from fever. But the IAF officer, along with three others, rushed to Arunachal Pradesh in an advanced light helicopter (ALH) to rescue people stuck in a landslide in Papum Pare district.
The helicopter went missing after returning from a rescue operation at Sagalee in Papum Pare, about 86km northeast of Itanagar, around 3.30pm. It lost radar contact at 3.50pm. The wreckage was reportedly sighted the next day.
On the fateful day, his wife, Prabhpreet Kaur, wanted him to take their daughter to the Station Medicare Centre. "But he said he would not be able to, as he had to go for a flood relief mission. In the process of saving other lives, he ended up losing his own," the IAF today said in a statement quoting Prabhpreet.
Recalling the time spent together in their nearly 14 years of marriage, Prabhpreet described her husband as someone who was very compassionate and helpful towards anyone in need.
Having grown up herself in the air force way of life (her father is a retired Air Commodore), Prabhpreet was well acquainted with the high-risk profession of her pilot husband, said the IAF statement.
"He would always volunteer for such rescue and relief missions ahead of others. Flying for flood relief or casualty evacuation always remained his top priority. He just wanted to help others in every possible way and also performed seva in langars at gurudwaras wherever possible," she recalled.
"He was a loving husband and a doting father to our daughter Sehaj and son Eshwar," she said.
Flight Lieutenant P.K. Singh, Flight Engineer Sergeant Gujjar and IRB jawan Nada Umbing also died in the chopper mishap.
Arunachal Pradesh is reeling under severe floods and 14 people have died in a landslide at Laptap village in Papum Pare district on Wednesday. The crew had reportedly evacuated 169 civilians to safety before the crash. The bodies were cremated at Parua in Tezpur on July 9.
Dhillon's father, retired squadron leader P.S. Dhillon, who also served in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland before retiring in 1995, told The Telegraph today over phone from Patiala in Punjab that a three-day prayer service began at their home this morning.
"It's an irreparable loss. He was an honest, sincere and brave boy and always wanted to help people. Nothing can fill this void but it is good to see people recognising his sacrifice," he said.
Punjab chief minister captain Amrinder Singh, among others, has been invited for the prayer meet, he said.