Army’s new bid to recover 1968 An-12 crash victims’ bodies

Shimla: Fifty-one years after an Indian Air Force An-12 transport aircraft crashed in the icy mountains of Himachal Pradesh killing all 102 on board, the Indian Army on Friday announced it would launch another operation to recover the over 90 missing bodies.

The aircraft went missing over the Rohtang Pass on its way back to Chandigarh Air Force base in February 1968. While five bodies have recovered since a mountaineering expedition found the plane debris in 2003, the other remains are still missing.

The Tripeak Brigade Commander flagged off the expedition which will start trekking from Batal located at 13,400 feet to the air crash site at Dhaka Glacier (17,292 ft), the Indian Army said in a statement.

En route, the team will traverse many glaciers with yawning crevasses and surmount gradient of 80 degrees at some places.

The team will start the search operation from August 3 and will attempt to extricate and recover mortal remains and wreckage, if found.

Since the crash, there were rumours that the aircraft might have strayed into enemy territory and may have been forced to land in enemy territory with all the onboard passengers being taken as prisoners of war.

However, the mystery of the missing airplane was finally solved as a mountaineering expedition stumbled over the debris of plane near Dhaka Glacier, and found the identity card of a soldier was on board the missing aircraft.

This discovery gave a fresh ray of hope to the families of the missing passengers that bodies will be recovered for performing the last rites.

Since then, numerous search missions have been launched to recover the bodies of missing soldiers on board. However, only five bodies have been found till date.