Jammu, Aug 15: A day after the army claimed to have engaged a submarine rescue unit of the Indian navy, the body of one of the missing pilots was retrieved on Sunday evening from Ranjit Sagar dam where their helicopter had crashed on August 3.
A senior army officer said, “The mortal remains of Lt Col Abheet Singh Baath, the pilot of the ill-fated Rudra 254 A A Squadron were retrieved from a depth of 75.9 m at 1819 hours from Ranjit Sagar dam.”
Later PRO Defence Lt Col Devender Anand, while confirming the retrieval, too issued a similar statement. “Efforts continue to retrieve mortal remains of the second pilot,” Lt Col Anand added in the official statement.
The retrieval happened on the 13th day of the search operation. Earlier SSP Kathua Ramesh Kotwal, too, had confirmed the retrieval of Lt Col A S Baath’s body. “So far only one body has been recovered. Search for another body is still on,” SSP had informed.
Official sources stated that the body was taken to Military Hospital Pathankot for medico-legal formalities. Meanwhile, the search operation at the dam site was halted till tomorrow morning, they added.
On Saturday, the army had said that it had flown in a submarine rescue unit of the Indian navy, while intensifying its search operation, to explore digitally located wreckage at a depth of approximately 80 - 100 meters.
As per PRO Defence, Indian Air Force (IAF) had lifted the heavy equipment from Visakhapatnam to Pathankot to speed up the underwater search.
Indian army and all other agencies to include Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, NDRF, Ranjit Sagar dam authority, district authorities including the locals were sparing no efforts for bringing the operations to a final conclusion, he had maintained.
On August 3, the Army Aviation Corps’ Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) with a pilot and a co-pilot on board crashed into Ranjit Sagar dam, minutes after taking off from Mamun Military Station near Pathankot for a routine sortie. Dam is in Kathua district of Jammu region. It is 25 km long, 8 km wide and more than 500 feet deep.
On August 10, the army had issued a statement maintaining that international assistance was also being sought for the challenging deep underwater operation to search for two missing pilots of the helicopter which crashed and sank into the Ranjit Sagar dam in Kathua on August 3.
The army had informed that multibeam sonars, side scanners, remotely operated vehicles and underwater manipulators were also flown in from Chandigarh, Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi and pressed into action at the crash site of the dam.
It had maintained that the experts, specialised equipment and divers were being continuously flown in. The army had stated that this deep underwater operation was especially challenging due to the near zero visibility below 50 meters owing to the colloidal nature of water in this season which adversely impacted accuracy of sonars and other sensors.