Soldier from Hassan dies, Belagavi trooper survives J&K avalanche

Soldier from Hassan dies, Belagavi trooper survives J&K avalanche

Soldier from Hassan dies, Belagavi trooper survives J&K avalanche

A soldier from Hassan district is among 14 troopers who died in a series of avalanches in Jammu and Kashmir on the intervening night of January 25 and 26.

Another Army officer from Karnataka, Major Shrihari Kugaji, attached to 115 Battalion of Territorial Army Unit, survived an avalanche that hit an Army post at Sonamarg in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.

D P Sandeep Kumar, 28, a resident of Devihalli village, Shanthigrama hobli, Hassan taluk, was killed when an avalanche hit an Army patrol near the Line of Control (LoC) in northern Kashmir’s Bandipora district. Sandeep, son of Puttaraju and Gangamma, did his schooling in the village and went on to study PU at M Krishna College in Hassan. He joined the Army in 2010 and served in Gujarat for four years before being posted to Jammu and Kashmir two years ago. On November 20, 2016, he got engaged to a woman from Bengaluru. The marriage was scheduled for April 22, 2017. The news of his death hasn’t been broken to his mother who is currently in hospital for treatment of a heart disease. His mortal remains will be brought to his native village on Saturday and the funeral will take place later.

Shrihari, a resident of Adarsh Nagar in Belagavi, hails from a family that has dedicated itself to serving in the Army. A native of Yallur village in Belagavi district, Shrihari moved to Kashmir when the battalion was shifted there last June.

Shrihari is the sole survivor among nine soldiers who were manning a bunker on a hillock when the avalanche struck it. He was buried in a heap of snow for more than two hours before struggling his way out. At one instance, he almost gave up the fight as snow kept building up, but regained his senses to crawl up. He gulped some snow to make space and restore the flow of air, his father Anant Kugaji said in Belagavi.

“My son took inspiration from (another soldier) Hanamanthappa Koppad who had survived for nearly 10 days in a rubble of snow. He said to himself that he has to survive. He kept shouting for help until a rescue team showed up and pulled him out,” Anant added.

After being rescued, Shrihari called up his mother, Sushila, in Belagavi, and narrated what had happened. He lost all his belongings and had to borrow clothes from fellow soldiers, his mother said.

Shrihari joined the Army in 2007. His father retired as a subedar while his elder sister, Major Pankaja Anand Kugaji, is the first commissioned officer from Belagavi. The Kugaji family is happy that their son has survived but isn’t celebrating. It is rather grieving the death of eight of Shrihari’s comrades. “They too are our children and we wish they had survived,” Sushila said.