44 years after an AN-12 aircraft of the IAF crashed killing all 102 people on board on the icy heights of Chandrabhaga peak, clues are finally emerging to help resolve the mystery behind the incident.

A group of trekkers from local mountaineering institute claimed that during descent from CB—13 peak (Chandrabhaga peak 13), located at an altitude of 6,164 metres or 20,624 ft, they found the debris of an aircraft scattered over Dakka Glacier on July 15.

“We collected the belongings including an I card bearing the name of Arjun Singh from Pune and handed these over to Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) on return to Manali, expedition leader Dinanath Thakur said.

The AN-12 aircraft of the IAF which took off from Chandigarh on February 7, 1968, on a routine logistics sortie with 102 people on board to Leh in Jammu and Kashmir when it crashed into the Chandrabhaga peak in inclement weather.

It was only in July 2003 that an expedition from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports in Manali discovered the wreckage site.

The team also found the mortal remains and documents of one Beli Ram. His remains were moved to his native village in Akhnoor and cremated with full military honours.

Subsequently, the Indian Army launched expeditions every summer to recover bodies of the lost soldiers.

Code named Opertion Punaruthan-III, an expedition of the army retrieved three bodies on Aug 9, 2007, near the Chandrabhaga peak.

The Black Box of the aircraft has not been recovered so far and the cause of the crash is shrouded in mystery.

Thakur said chances of recovery of major portion of the aircraft have increased as it was likely that it was buried into the glacier which was now melting every year.

“It appears that thick snow cover over the glacier is thinning which would facilitate spotting of major portion of the aircraft,” he added.

Manali sub-divisional magistrate Balbir Thakur handed over the objects collected from the site to Col Arun Kainthala, Administrative Commandant posted at army transit camp at Palchan, some nine km from Manali.

(This article was published on August 2, 2012)
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