Army recovers wreckage of 1968 crash on Rohtang pass

After a hiatus of a half-a-century, a joint Indian Army and Air Force team has found the debris of an ill-fated IAF AN-12 transport aircraft that crashed on the Rohtang pass in 1968.

The twin-engine turboprop transport aircraft piloted by Flight Lieutenant Harkewal Singh and Squadron Leader Pran Nath Malhotra disappeared on February 7, 1968 while flying to Leh from Chandigarh.

The plane was on approach to Leh when the pilot decided to turn back due to inclement weather. Subsequently, it went missing with the last radio contact over the Rohtang pass.

As few bodies and wreckage were found during mountaineering expeditions in the last 15 years, the Dogra Scouts of the Indian Army's Western Command launched a fresh expedition to Dhaka glacier on July 26 with the aim of recovering the mortal remains of soldiers who were on-board the AN-12 BL-534 aircraft.

After ten days, the Army team was joined by Indian Air Force personnel to boost the search operation in harsh weather conditions.

With the glacier having heavy snow cover due to old avalanches, precipitous gradients, avalanche-prone slopes and open crevasses, the task was difficult.

But 13 days of rigorous search at an altitude of 5,240 meters paid dividends, the team finally recovered parts of the aircraft such as the aero engine, fuselage, electric circuits, propeller, fuel tank unit, air brake assembly and a cockpit door.

The team also recovered personal belongings of some passengers who were on-board, the Army said in a statement.

The search area including the location of recoveries have been mapped for future reference.

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