GUWAHATI, June 18 - Unable to airlift the mortal remains, the Indian Air Force has formed a ground team to trek to the AN-32 crash site in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh.
�The plan was initiated as the weather and clouds did not allow any helicopter flying. The team was formed day before yesterday and has started trekking,� defence spokesman Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh told The Assam Tribune.
The trekking team has 19 members � four Garud Commandos of IAF, four from Special Forces of Army, one civilian hunter and 11 porters. The first element of the team is likely to reach the crash site tomorrow.
The wreckage of the missing AN-32 transport aircraft was located by a Mi-17 helicopter on June 11, following which a team of 15 mountaineers was dropped near the crash site the very next day. Later, three more mountaineers joined the rescue team. The mortal remains of the 13 people on board were found at the site.
The defence spokesman said helicopters, including Mi-17s, Cheetah and ALHs, have not been able to approach the site in the last three days due to inclement weather in the valleys and cloud cover over the crash site. Retrieval operations require the steep mountain sides to be visible for the helicopters to safely hover close to the crash site and for operating crew to be able to see the personnel on the ground.
�The IAF has actively coordinated with State administration at all levels. No effort is being spared by the IAF to ensure that the mortal remains of the air warriors are retrieved at the earliest. The Army and Arunachal Pradesh State administration have all along have provided unflinching support,� the spokesman said.