Bodies of IAF pilots, crew members charred beyond recognition; clashes at accident site after govt forces arrive
BUDGAM: Seven charred bodies, six of them of Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel and the seventh of a local civilian, were recovered from the burnt remains of an M-17 IAF chopper that crashed in an open field in Gariend Kalan village in Budgam district on Wednesday morning.
An official who was present at the spot told Kashmir Reader that after a daylong operation of sifting through the remains of the crashed chopper, seven charred bodies were recovered.
“Among the seven bodies, two were of pilots, four of crew members, and one of a local civilian,” the official said.
He added that none of the bodies could be identified because their flesh had completely burnt in the flames. “The bodies have been taken to forensic lab for DNA test,” the official said.
A local resident, who identified himself as Syed Arshad, narrated how the accident happened. “It was 10:09 in the morning; we had just finished our morning tea when we saw a chopper flying too close to our houses,” he said.
“It created panic in the area. When we came out of our homes to investigate, we found that the chopper had caught fire and flames were rising out of it. It fell down in the open in paddy fields,” Arshad said.
Another local, Khan Aqib, said that he heard a very loud explosion. “Everything shook. I had never heard anything that loud before. Within minutes, the sky was covered with dark smoke that eclipsed even the sunlight,” he said.
“In the meantime, we rushed towards the spot to evacuate the trapped men. However, their bodies had already been charred by flames,” Khan said and added that a local civilian, Kifayat Ahmad Ganie, son of Mohammed Ramzan Ganie, who was part of the volunteers who had rushed to help, died after he was caught in a fire blast.
“The destroyed chopper caught the attraction of hundreds of people, some of them came from miles away to examine the spot. A few were busy in trying to pull out the bodies while others were busy in shooting the scene on their cell phones.
Khan said that when police and other government forces reached the spot, youths began to chant pro-Pakistan slogans and the police fired bullets in the air.
“They resorted to tear smoke shelling to disperse the gathering,” he said of the police action.
“Air Force personnel were called to the spot, but the chopper they were travelling in was pelted with stones by the gathered youths, forcing them to retreat,” an eyewitness said.
Following the clashes, police and paramilitary forces laid a cordon around the spot and restricted people from coming close to the spot.
There has been no statement from the police as yet on the clashes at the spot of the accident.
An official said it took almost 6 hours to search through the debris and evacuate the bodies.