Thu 3 Sep 2009, 10:41 AM | Posted by IndiaVision News
HYDERABAD, India (Reuters) - Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S.R Reddy was killed after his helicopter crashed in a dense swathe of forest known to be a stronghold of Maoist rebels, Indian television channels reported.
Rescuers on Thursday found the helicopter after it went missing for almost 24 hours, officials said.
"I am extremely shocked…," Andhra Pradesh Governor Narayan Dutt Tiwari told the Times Now news channel.
"It is a very sad day," he said.
Reddy was on a tour of a rural district when his Bell-430 helicopter went missing on Wednesday over a dense jungle.
Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and four other persons were killed in the helicopter that crashed in the Nallamala Hills in bad weather on Wednesday losing radio contact an hour after take off from Hyderabad.
The bodies of 60-year-old Reddy - who led his Congress party to a spectacular second consecutive victory in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls - his Special Secretary P Subramanyam, Chief Secretary 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 Kurnool.
His Bell 430 chopper went down in bad weather.
Army commandos recovered the dead bodies of all the five people - including the Chief Minister - who were on board the twin-engine Bell chopper.
An Indian Air Force helicopter had on Thursday morning located the mangled remains of the helicopter.
The news of the tragedy filtered out after a meeting of the Congress core group at the Prime Minister's residence, but fears had been growing since Wednesday night when search operations to locate the missing chopper were unsuccessful.
The helicopter took off at 0835 hrs IST from the old Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad on Wednesday.
The Chief Minister was on his way to Chittoor, 588 km from Hyderabad, for a function when his helicopter went missing in inclement weather around 0930 hrs IST on Wednesday in the dense Nallamalla forests.
Reactions from political leaders started pouring in soon after the tragic news was announced.
"We are in total shock, it's a tremendous loss for the Congress party, for the entire state of Andhra Pradesh. We are yet to come to terms with this news. Sonia Gandhi is in constant touch with the family and is monitoring the situation closely. The senior leaders who have been deputed in this matter will brief the press shortly. He was an utterly practical human being, he was always moving on to achieve his goal, he was the man on the move, it's very sad that life has got him to such a tragic end. He was a dynamic Chief Minister. It is a tremendous loss to Andhra Pradesh and the Congress party. It's a terrible time because he could have achieved so much as the head of the state," said Congress Spokesperson Jayanti Natrajan.
State Congress Chief, D Srinivas said, "I don't think I will see another leader like him in this lifetime."
TDP leader Yerran Naidu said, "Today is a sad day. YSR Reddy was a great leader, I knew him for 30 years. We were really hoping that he would be found safe. We are very shocked."
"I had hoping till the last minute that some miracle will happen. If the party is feeling this way I can't imagine what the family is going through. He was the kind of leader who could turn probability into possibility," said Congress leader Renuka Chowdhary.
STATE PLUNGES INTO GLOOM, CONG IN MOURNING
Andhra Pradesh plunged into gloom Thursday as it became known that Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy had died in a helicopter crash in the dense Nallamalla forests.
People cried inconsolably in the state secretariat, the chief minister's camp office and Gandhi Bhavan, the headquarters of the ruling Congress party.
"He is my God. I can't believe he is no more," wailed a Congress party worker.
"He gave life to several people through Rajiv Arogyasri (health insurance scheme for poor). Nobody had imagined he will lose his life this way," said another Congress worker.
The Congress flag will fly at half mast.
Hyderabad: The bodies of Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Rajashekhara Reddy and his four co-passengers were brought to Kurnool for autopsy at about 1430 hrs IST on Thursday.
A huge crowd of mourners had gathered near APSP parade grounds in Kurnool where an IAF helicopter carrying the bodies landed. Security personnel had a tough time controlling the crowd.
The bodies, which have been charred beyond recognition, have been airlifted by a MI-8 helicopter of the Indian Air Force and have reached Hyderabad.
A large number of Congress workers and supporters have also gathered outside the Congress office in Hyderabad. Many of them were seen wailing and carrying placards praising the dead Andhra chief minister.
The chief minister's will be kept at Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad for the public to pay their homage.
His body will be flown to his hometown Pulivendula in Kadapa district on Friday when a state funeral will take place, Andhra Chief Secretary P Ramakanth Reddy said.
The Tricolour will fly at half mast in Delhi and all state capital on September 3 and 4. All Central and state government offices in Andhra Pradesh will remain closed September 4.
The mangled and burnt remains along with the charred remains of the YSR and his four co-passengers on board the helicopter was spotted on the top of Rudrakonda Hill, 74 kilometres east of Kurnool by Indian Air Force helicopters at 0830 hrs IST, nearly 24 hours after it lost contact with the Air Traffic Control at Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad.
The helicopter deviated 18 km from its path towards east, hit a cliff and crashed.
A team of Army para commandos had to slither down with the help of a rope from a rescue helicopter to reach the top of a hill deep inside Nallmalla forest to recover the charred remains of YSR, his Principal Secretary S Subramanyam, Chief Security Officer ASC Wesley, pilot Group Captain S K Bhatia and co-pilot M S Reddy.
According to Andhra Finance Minister K Rosaiah, Chief Secretary and Director General of Police SSP Yadav the twin-engine Bell 430 helicopter deviated 18 kilometres from its flight path over the Nallamalla forest in inclement weather, hit a hill and crashed killing all its occupants.
However, it is not yet clear why the helicopter, which was on its way to Chittoor from Hyderabad, deviated from its assigned path.
Except the tail portion, the body of the helicopter of AP Aviation Corporation was completely destroyed in the crash.
The tragic confirmation of the death and YSR and his co-passengers came in after a massive search operation involving the Indian Army, IAF, Central Reserve Police Force, Andhra Police's Greyhound commandos, specialised anti-terrorist force Organisation for Counter Terrorism and Operations (Octopus) and the new anti-Naxal force Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (Cobra).
CRPF personnel and Army jawans continued the search operation throughout the night inside the forest with the help of night vision devices even as aerial search operations had to be halted because of bad weather.
The IAF also pressed into service Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft which have synthetic aperture radar for high resolution ground mapping in and around Kurnool.
Satellite imagery was also used to trace the missing helicopter. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had also provided special low flying aircraft and remote sensing equipment and satellite imagery to aide the search operation.
Reddy had taken off for Chittoor from Hyderabad 0838 hrs IST for a government function as part of his new reach-out programme where he conducted surprise visits to villages around the state to check on development projects.
The chief minister was going to Chittoor to take stock of the following schemes - Arogya (free health care scheme), pension plans for aged and ration cards for all and NREGA implementation.
STATE FUNERAL FOR YSR
YSR will be given a state funeral on Friday while the national flag will fly at half mast in Delhi and all state capitals on Thursday and Friday, the Government announced.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters after a cabinet meeting in the Capital that the tricolour would also fly at half mast all over Andhra Pradesh in tribute to the chief minister.
All central government offices in Andhra Pradesh will remain shut Friday, Soni added.
Thursday's cabinet meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, observed a two-minute silence in memory of the chief minister.