Chandigarh: The wreckage of an Army helicopter, which crashed into Ranji Sagar Dam reservoir on August 3, has been located at a depth 80 metres, Army authorities said on Wednesday.
The wreckage was found on the ninth day of the search operations after a small area of 60×60 metres was localised in the lake and special Sonar equipment, flown in from Kochi, was pressed into service.
Army authorities informed that the wreckage of the cabin of the helicopter appears to be intact as per the Sonar signature. However, there are no signs of the remains of the two pilots.
Special salvage equipment will have to be transported to the site as the equipment being used is not adequate to lift the wreckage. Heavy duty remotely operated vehicles are also being transported to the site, as per a tweet put out by the Western Command Headquarters in Chandimandir.
A senior Army officer informed that private companies, which have the expertise to conduct such salvage operations are being engaged in order to get the wreckage out of the depths. The National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) is also in touch with a firm, which specialises in such work, the officer informed.
“Military authorities are leaving no stone unturned,” Jammu-based Army PRO Lt Col Devender Anand had earlier said.
The expanse of the Ranjit Sagar Dam reservoir is 25-km long, 8-km-wide and more than 500 feet deep. The Army is coordinating the efforts of Indian Navy, which has deployed two officers, four Junior Commissioned Officers and 24 Other Ranks. Besides, Army Special Forces divers, including two officers, one Junior Commissioned Officer and 24 Other Ranks are also deployed.
Multi beam Sonars, side scanners, remotely operated vehicles and underwater manipulators, which have been flown in from Chandigarh, Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi have been pressed into service. Search operations have continued unabated despite bad weather and rain.
“This deep underwater operation is especially challenging due to the near zero visibility below 50 meters owing to the colloidal nature of water in this season, which adversely impacts accuracy of Sonars and other sensors,” an Army statement said.
“Experts, specialised equipment and divers are being continuously flown in and international assistance is also being sought. No efforts are being spared for early conclusion of the search operation,” Lt Col Anand said.
The Army Aviation Corps’ advanced light helicopter (ALH) had taken off from Mamun military station near Pathankot with pilot and co-pilot on a routine sortie before crashing into the lake on August 3. This was the second fatal crash involving this type of helicopter this year from the same squadron.
The families of the two pilots — a Lt Colonel and a Captain — have been camping at the Mamun Military station. Neel Joshi, brother of Captain Jayant Joshi, had earlier expressed unhappiness at the slow pace of the recovery operations and said the delay in finding the remains of his brother was having a adverse effect on the health of his parents.