News is sad and grim, says Chidambaram

Itanagar/ New Delhi: Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorji Khandu, who went missing on Saturday on a flight from Tawang, is believed to have died when his helicopter crashed in the mountains and the wreckage was located on Wednesday.

Along with him, four other occupants of the single-engined Euro Copter B8 of Pawan Hans are also believed to have perished in the crash of the chopper, whose wreckage has been spotted in a place between Kyela and Lobothang in the mountainous region of the State.

The other occupants of the helicopter were pilots Capt. J.S. Babbar, Capt. T.S. Mamik, Mr. Khandu’s security officer Yeshi Choddak and Yeshi Lhamu, sister of Tawant MLA Tsewang Dhondup.

Officially no declaration has been made of any death, but Union Minister for Development of North Eastern Region B.K. Handique said a relative of Mr. Khandu and a panchayat leader from his constituency identified his body.

The panchayat leader Thupten from Kyela village of Mr. Khandu’s Mukto constituency, first informed an official Rinchin of his sighting the body which was passed on Tawang Deputy Commissioner Hamli Padu, who alerted the Army base at Kyela, Mr. Handique told reporters in Itanagar.

However in New Delhi, Home Minister P. Chidambaram preferred to be cautious when he said, “I am afraid the news grim and sad”. Earlier, he spoke about helicopters locating the site of the crash and sighting of bodies.

“From whatever I can piece together the information from the information given by the villagers and assuming it to be true, I am afraid the news is grim and sad,” he told reporters here in his second update on the search operations.

Giving details, he said some villagers had reportedly reached the site of the crash of a helicopter and communicated to the control room in Itanagar that they had identified two bodies while three were charred beyond recognition.

“These are interrupted communications by villagers who have reached the site. But no official of the government, Army or police has been able to reach there,” he said.

“It may take several hours for any of these officials to reach the spot because it is about five kilometres from Kyela,” Mr. Chidambaram said.

He said a Cheetah helicopter, which flew over the site, was also able to locate the debris of a crashed helicopter and some bodies lying there.

“We are trying to land another Cheetah from Lubothang,” the Home Minister said, adding a team of the government to reach the accident site which is about 5 km from Kyela.

Mr. Handique said honouring the wishes of people, Mr. Khandu’s body would be brought here and kept in his bungalow for the people to pay their last respects.