Andhra CM chopper missing
HYDERABAD: A helicopter carrying Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajashekhar Reddy, two of his staff and two pilots went missing while on his way from Karnool to Chittoor in pouring rain Wednesday morning over the Naxal and tiger-infested Nalamalla forests and with no contact until early Thursday, experts and officials feared the worst.
Soon after the chopper lost contact, multiple agencies of the state launched a massive hunt for possible wreckage in the desolate terrain. By evening, it expanded into the country's biggest-ever search operation with satellites in the sky joining remote sensing aircraft, fighter jets, unmanned aerial vehicles, troops on the ground and even barefoot deer-hunting tribals with bows and arrows. The Air Force pressed its topline Sukhoi 30 MKI into a night search and flew in Dornier and Avro reconnaissance aircraft. US ambassador to India Tim Roemer and Union home minister P Chidambaram spoke several times through the evening and the US volunteered to provide information picked up by its satellites.
It was a flight that should not have taken off at all. The Met office had forecast not only heavy rainfall but the likelihood of fierce lightning and thunderstorms. But the 60-year-old politician was adamant. He was to kickstart a new village mass-contact programme called Rachabanda from Chittoor district (better known for housing the Tirupati temple) at 10.30am and there was no way that he was missing his appointment.
The Bell 430 took off at 8.38am from Begumpet airport, not more than 2km from Reddy's residence, on its 500-km journey. For about 30 minutes, things were fine and the pilot was in touch with the air traffic control (ATC). But soon after entering the space over the Nallamalla forests, it ran into problems. Rain was thick and visibility was zero. What happened thereafter remains a mystery so far but in all probability, the helicopter went down. The helicopter was last in contact with the ATC at 9.12am. The chopper had fuel to fly for 2.45 hours, enough to make it to Chittoor.
Apart from Reddy, the chopper was carrying principal secretary to CM S Subrahmanyam and YSR's chief security officer ASC Wesley. The craft was being piloted by group captain S K Bhatia and captain M S Reddy.
"It was last sighted by villagers between Atmakur and Bandiatmakur close to Rollapenta entering the Nallamalla forests from Kurnool district towards Prakasam district between 9.15 am and 9.30 am," chief secretary P Ramakanth Reddy said.
In New Delhi, there was a flurry of activity in the Congress and the home ministry went into a tizzy, setting in motion all emergency procedures possible. Minister of state for defence P Raju said the emergency locating transmitter (ELT) had not been activated and this gave hope that the chopper had made a safe landing.
What is causing immense worry is that Nallamalla, or 'Black Hills' in Telugu, is a dense, hilly, forest that is an extension of the Eastern Ghats. It was once the main area of operation for AP Naxals and armed cadres are still suspected to be hiding out in the forest camps. But what is known for sure is that the forest is tiger territory.
"For the last three days, the forest region has seen heavy rains and zero visibility. The Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers are overflowing and the Srisailam reservoir is full. The area is full of water," A V Rao, a Kurnool resident, told TOI. The area is sparsely populated with Chenchu tribals. "It is an inaccessible area with no cellphone towers, radio signals," Rao added. Strangely enough for a helicopter carrying the chief minister, the Bell 430 did not have a satellite phone connection.
Alarm bells started ringing in the state government headquarters from mid-day but police parties which were sent out drew a blank as they could not venture out too far in pouring rain. Meanwhile, the rumour mill was active with stories flying thick and fast about how the chief minister had been rescued. Faced with a barrage of queries, finance minister K Rosiah called a press conference to deny that Reddy had been found.
Later in the day, chief secretary Ramakanth Reddy said two IAF helicopters from Bangalore and one private chopper from Krishnapatnam in Nellore district scoured the area but found no sign of the CM's chopper. "Earlier, two IAF choppers from Hakimpet had set out but had to return halfway because of the inclement weather. The state has now deployed an aircraft belonging to the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) which is operating throughout Monday night at a height of 1.5 km over the forest area where the helicopter was last sighted," the chief secretary said.
Teams which entered the Nallamalla forests during the day on foot had to return because of adverse weather conditions. "We went upto 20 km into the forest but had to return as the rivers are in spate," K Subba Reddy, a local resident of Velgodu village, told TOI over phone after returning to the village.
Late on Wednesday night, hundreds of Greyhound personnel, raised to fight Naxals, moved into the Nallamalla forest riding on tractors borrowed from Nallakaluva village in Kurnool district as part of the search operations. Officials from the revenue and forest departments, AP Special Police and tribals were also pressed into service, the chief secretary said.
Race against time: missing since Wednesday morning
8.38am: Chopper takes off from Hyderabad for Chittoor (approx 500 km), where YSR was to launch mass contact plan. Accompanied by principal secy S Subrahmanyam & chief security officer ASC Wesley
9.35am: Copter declared missing. Last known coordinates: 168°, 79 nautical miles from Hyderabad. Around 10.15am, private choppers pressed into search operations
1.30pm : Defence Chetak choppers join search but are forced to return within an hour because of bad weather
2.30pm: 2 IAF MI-8 choppers mobilized. Dornier and Avro planes called in. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle put on stand-by
5.30pm: 5 companies of CRPF (600 men) enter Nallamala forest with night vision devices. By sunset, 20 teams, including 3 columns of Army, state police (including anti-Naxal squads), forest and revenue officials enter 1,000 sqkm area
Primitive tribe of Chenchus, who hunt with bows and arrows, approached for assistance
6.30pm: Chopper search called off due to poor light & bad weather. After sundown, IAF’s Sukhoi-30 MKI with thermal imaging devices used
Hope naxalites do not catch him ! yup
Re: Andhra CM Dead
Update : Andhra CM YSR Reddy dead in chopper crash
NEW DELHI: Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy has died in an air crash, home minister P Chidambaram has formally announced.
We are in deep mourning," the home minister said, describing YSR, who led the Congress to a spectacular election victory in May this year, as "a tall leader".
"... We send our condolences to the families of YSR and the other four (who died in the helicopter crash)."
The bodies of 60-year-old Reddy, his special secretary P Subramanyam, chief security officer A S C Wesley, pilot Group Captain S K Bhatia and co-pilot M S Reddy were found on Rudrakonda Hill, 40 nautical miles east of here, besides the mangled remains of the helicopter.
YSR's mortal remains are being flown to Kurnool General Hospital. After a postmortem there, they will be brought to Hyderabad, state government sources said.
After being brought to Hyderabad, YSR's body will be taken to the chief minister's camp office in Begumpet. The bodies of the other four people would be taken to their respective native places.
The chief minister's body will be kept at the Lal Bahadur stadium in Hyderabad from 10 am Friday to enable people to pay their last respects.
On Friday, at 1 pm, YSR's body will be taken to Pulivendula, his native town in Kadapa district, where he will be cremated with state honours.
Meanwhile, big crowds have gathered outside the state secretariat and YSR's residence. As Thursday is also the day for the immersion of Ganesh idols at the end of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations and there is a huge traffic dislocation in the city, cops are finding it difficult to manage the situation.
The central leadership of the Congress is understood to have cleared the name of Andhra Pradesh finance minister K Rosaiah as the caretaker CM of the state.
The Union Cabinet is meeting to discuss the matter.
The helicopter carrying YSR Reddy, two of his staff and two pilots went missing in pouring rain Wednesday morning over the Naxal and tiger-infested Nalamalla forests.
Nearly 24 hours after YSR's chopper went missing, it was located atop Serai Salem hill, at a distance 40 nautical miles (70 kms) east of Kurnool.
The CM left Hyderabad on a six-seater Bell chopper at 8.35am for Chittoor accompanied by his secretary and chief security officer. After 9.27am, radio contact was lost with the helicopter.
Soon after the chopper lost contact, multiple agencies of the state launched a massive hunt for possible wreckage in the desolate terrain. By evening, it expanded into the country's biggest-ever search operation with satellites in the sky joining remote sensing aircraft, fighter jets, unmanned aerial vehicles, troops on the ground and even barefoot deer-hunting tribals with bows and arrows.
--- RIP ---
Re: Andhra CM chopper missing
ha bai ha he is dead.... thanks for letting me know @jaspreet & rajat
hey bhagwan. if scroll up then u will find ---> "Update : Andhra CM YSR Reddy dead in chopper crash"