Arunachal Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu dead, crashed helicopter found

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Itanagar:  Five days after the helicopter that he was using went missing, Arunachal Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu was found dead in Luguthang, near the China border. A government official and a relative of Mr Khandu have identified his body. (Read: Arunachal CM's relative identifies his body)

"The Chief Minister and four others are dead," Union Minister for Development of Northeastern Region  B K Handique told a press conference in Itanagar this evening. Kiran Rijiju, the advisor to the Late chief minister said since it is snowing it will not be possible to bring in the bodies till Wednesday.

The four other people on board with him - the two pilots, Captain JS Babbar and Captain T S Mamik, the Chief Minister's security officer Yeshi Choddak and Yeshi Lhamu, sister of a Tawang MLA - also died.

A pall of gloom descended on Itanagar as thousands thronged to Dorjee Khandu's official bungalow. And Mr Khandu's supporters took out their anger on the local Pawan Hans office and helipad. (Read: Pawan Hans office attacked in Arunachal)

Mr Khandu left Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh on Saturday morning on a Pawan Hans helicopter. He was headed to Itanagar. The helicopter lost contact twenty minutes after it took off as it approached Sela Pass 13,000 feet above sea level.  The area is known to be a challenging one for pilots, and the bad weather may have added to the complexity of the navigation required. (Watch: Dorjee Khandu - The Army man who led Arunachal) | (Read)

After initial reports of the chopper landing safely in Bhutan, Mr Khandu's younger son,Tashi Tsering Khandu, went out looking for him on Sunday. But his search in the Sakteng  area on the Bhutan border proved futile. Finally, on Wednesday morning villagers in Luguthang sent out messages that they had seen the wreckage.

Sources say the wreckage was found on the eastern side of the Sela Pass, close to the Chinese border. Images taken by ISRO satelite and Indian Air Force's Sukhoi 30s had pointed to an area south-west of Sela, near the Bhutan border.

The wreckage spot raises several questions:

  • If the pilot's last conversation with the Tawang Air Traffic Controller was that he had crossed the Sela Pass., why does the wreckage point to the helicopter taking the east direction?
  • Was the helicopter trying to return to Tawang after running into bad weather?
  • Why was the CM travelling in a single engine helicopter when civil aviation norms  suggest that he should've been in a helicopter with twin engines?

Jarbom Gamlin, Arunachal Power Minister and the state government's spokesperson told NDTV that all such questions will be looked into by the inquiry commission that has been formed to look into the accident.

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