Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and four others were killed when his helicopter crash-landed atop the Rudrakonda hill in the Nallamalla range, about 40 nautical miles east of Kurnool.
"I'm formally announcing that the CM is dead," said Home Minister P Chidambaram. In a formal statement to the media, he expressed "deep regret" over YSR's demise.
Earlier on Thursday morning, Indian Air Force personnel located the helicopter in the deep forests after 24 hours of massive land, air and satellite-backed search.
The chief minister was accompanied by special secretary P Subramaniam and chief security officer A S C Wesley in the chopper piloted by Group Capt S K Bhatia and Capt M S Reddy.
The 11-year-old Bell 430 helicopter with five on board had lost radio contact one hour after it took off from the old Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad on Wednesday.
PM condoles YSR's death: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled the death of YSR. In his condolence message to the late leader's wife Srimati Vijaya Laxmiji, the PM said, "It is with a deep sense of grief and personal loss that I learnt of the tragic and untimely demise of your husband, Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. In his untimely passing away, the State of Andhra Pradesh has lost an outstanding leader, and the country has lost an ideal Chief Minister who was a role model for other states. I have lost a valued colleague on whom I depended for support and ideas."
PM, Sonia to go to Hyderabad: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi will go to Andhra Pradesh on Friday, Congress sources said.
Andhra mourns: As the news of Reddy's death was made official, Andhra Pradesh plunged into a state of gloom. There was grief and disbelief among the people.
The Congress is stunned. The party has officially declared itself in mourning and its flag will fly at half mast.
Funeral on Friday: The CM's body will be taken to Hyderabad Thursday evening. It will be kept at the Lal Bahadur Stadium stadium for public viewing at 9 am to 1 pm on Friday. Then it will be moved to his village for last rites.
Rosaiah named caretaker CM: Senior Andhra Pradesh minister K Rosaiah was named the Acting Chief Minister in the wake of Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy's death.
Highly placed Congress sources said the party was not in a hurry to convene the meeting of Congress Legislature Party to elect a leader and the same could take place after three or four days.
Seventy-seven-year-old Rosaiah is the state Finance Minister and the number two in the state cabinet.
The Congress Working Committee is meeting later in the day.
Leaders condole YSR's death
Politically we may have been rivals, but personally we were good friends. I express my deep condolence for losing such a good friend. I pray to god to rest his soul rest in peace. - Former Andhra CM and TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu
I am shocked over my dear friend's death. It's an unbearable loss for Tamil Nadu. As a mark of mourning, government offices, schools and colleges in Tamil Nadu will remain closed on Friday. - DMK supremo M Karunanidhi
An irreparable loss to the country, Congress and democracy. Our condolences to his family and his dear ones. - BJP president Rajnath Singh
We are sad and grieved. It is a very big and shocking tragedy and state mourning will be observed. I met him a number of times. He was a very good human. Sometimes choppers develop snags, but choppers will continue to fly. We can't stop choppers... precautions we take and we'll continue to do so. - Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal
I am deeply saddened by the news of Rajasekhar Reddy's death. YSR was a friend and a colleague of many years and our political life too has followed a similar track. Rajiv Gandhiji had appointed us as state secretaries at the same time. YSR was a committed and talented politician and spearheaded many important projects for the poor. He had great sympathy for the poor and was one of the tallest leaders of the Congress party in South India. - AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh
It is particularly worrying, as use of choppers by politicians has seen a sharp rise in recent years. Choppers have not just had a high rate of accidents but fatalities too. We will probe why it was allowed to take off when the weather conditions were bad and clouds were present. - CPM Politburo Member Sitaram Yechury
Paying tributes to Reddy, US Ambassador Timothy J Roemer said, "The Chief Minister was a strong supporter of the US-India friendship and our bilateral partnership, visible in the strong economic and family ties between the people of Andhra Pradesh and the United States."
Why did the pilot deviate? After the tragedy, questions are being raised over the major deviation from the flight path.
While issuing an official statement on YSR's death, the Home Minister on Thursday confirmed that the chopper carrying the Andhra CM had deviated from its route. He said the helicopter deviated from its flight path and flew in the easterly direction. But it was difficult to speculate what brought it down, he added.
"Preliminary information is that the aircraft was bound southward, when it crossed Kurnool it went in a direction that was eastward, to an area known as Atmakuru. The hillock is about 8-9 kms from Atmakuru. It lies between two villages. It's not possible to say at this point why it crashed."
A parliamentary panel will probe whether the chopper should have flown at all.
YSR missing copter, 2nd instance in AP: Today's instance of Andhra CM's helicopter going missing is the second such case to happen in the dense forests of the state since last year.
On August 3, 2008, a private helicopter with its four crewmembers on board went missing when it was flying to the thick Bastar forest area in Chhattisgarh.
About three months later parts of a helicopter were located in Pamanuru forest area in Andhra Pradesh. The skeletal remains of the crewmembers were reportedly traced in Pamunur hills, about 230 km from Khammam, on the Andhra Pradesh-Chhattisgarh border.
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