13 air warriors onboard the Indian Air Force’s AN-32 aircraft went missing in early June. With no trace of aircraft, nor that of the air warriors, there was an air of uncertainty for days to follow.
Almost 20 days after the aircraft was reported missing, the rescue team was finally able to recover the mortal remains. This operation was no less than a feat, given the team had to trace the remains of the aircraft with almost no information. The situation was only exacerbated with unruly weather and extremely rough terrain.
One of the members of the rescue team was the 27-year-old mountaineer Taka Tamut from Arunachal Pradesh. Tamut came out to volunteer for the operation on his own.
“Humanity Surpasses All”
Till June 5, Tamut was at a mountaineering camp, cut off from the routine life, but did have an idea about the ill-fated IAF aircraft. It was only on June 6 when he returned to Itanagar that he got to know from a local newspaper that the aircraft was still missing.
Tamut, who scaled the majestic Mt Everest in 2018, decided to go and help to find the aircraft. “I decided to go, although people advised me against it. They said, ‘why do you want to go, nobody has even asked you to’, ‘why do you want to take all this trouble and also spend your own money’. I ignored all and decided to go. For me humanity surpassed all these reasonings,” Tamut told The Logical Indian.
The very next day Tamut and another mountaineer friend, set out to Pasighat and explained to the Siang Deputy Commissioner (DC) his intention to participate in the rescue operation. The DC gave Tamut and his friend the go-ahead. The two, along with three other mountaineers set out to Payum.
There was a lack of information on the actual location of the crash. While the IAF-Army team were conducting their search operation in Shiyomi district, Tamut and his team started scanning the Payum area.
After a joint meeting where they weighed all factors, both the teams decided to conduct there search operations at Payum. “The problem persisted even after that as we still weren’t able to pinpoint the location. However, with the limited leads with us, we started moving from Payum to Gasheng.”
The journey towards Gasheng was extremely difficult, Tamut tells The Logical Indian. To add to already persisting uncertainty, the team was faced with bad weather and uneven terrain. “We couldn’t get any proper information from the ones we asked. In the end, there was one woman who said that she did see an aircraft which matched our description. She said that an aircraft which seemed to be out of control passed through the ridge between the mountains,” said Tamut.
Retrieval Of Mortal Remains
The rescue team then set out to the zeroed location between Pari Adi and Paha Dino. Details of minute-by-minute happenings were continuously being relayed to the headquarter.
“We asked the low-altitude porters to go back and also sent a message to EAC Kaying, who then managed to send us an IAF chopper to carry out a recce,” said Tamut.
Tamut and others boarded the IAF’s MI-17 helicopter and that is when they could spot the wrecks of the AN-32 aircraft. They reached the crash site finally on June 12. After which started the process of retrieval of the mortal remains from the wreck.
This process in itself was extremely challenging. “The location where we set camp was at 75-degree slope. To add to that the weather was extremely unfavourable.”
The bodies were recovered and airlifted by June 14.
From thereon started the waiting period for the rescue team to be lifted and the weather only worsened. “The weather was really bad because of which we couldn’t be airlifted soon. In the process, a civilian mountaineer and few from the IAF team also fell sick,” Tamut said.
On June 14, packets of food were dropped for the rescue team, with which they managed for the next two days.
“There were days when we relied just on biscuits and water,” Tamut shared.
After the weather cleared, they were finally airlifted.
Tamut emerged positive from the challenging experience. “I am glad that my skills were put to great use. I can only imagine the plight of the family members of the air warriors. This was the least we could do. There are some things which you don’t do for money, but for the sake of humanity,” Tamut said.
The Logical Indian salutes the Tamut and the whole rescue team for showing tremendous courage and resilience in the face of adversity.