The Indian Air Force on Thursday informed the families of those onboard the missing Antonov-32 aircraft that they have been presumed dead and that search operations have ended. Joint search and rescue operations, involving the IAF, Indian Navy, and Indian Coast Guard, failed to secure any leads off the Chennai coast, The Indian Express reported.
The aircraft had 29 people onboard when it was reported missing over the Bay of Bengal on July 22. It had taken off from Tambaram air base in Chennai and was headed to Port Blair.
“The families have been informed, but the search still continues,” Indian Air Force spokesperson Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee said.
Officials from both IAF and Navy, however, said that search for debris of the ill-fated aircraft will continue.
The AN-32, which was going to Port Blair from Chennai, had on board six crew members, 15 personnel from the IAF, army, navy and Coast Guard, and eight civilians who were family members of the personnel.
The letter also informs the families that the Indian Air Force “spared no efforts whatsoever in trying to locate the aircraft and the missing personnel. No fewer than 201 search and rescue sorties were undertaken.” It said that data from international agencies also failed to offer any leads.
Family members of the victims were persistent in requesting for information about the search effort. The difficulty level of the search operation was high because the aircraft did not have an underwater locator beacon, which allows it to be tracked in the ocean. A Geological Survey of India vessel recently discovered debris, possibly belonging to the missing Indian Air Force flight AN-32, during a deep-sea operation.
CERTIFICATE OF PRESUMPTION OF DEATH
The letter titled “Presumption of Demise” also mentions that a Court of Inquiry was conducted to “examine the available evidence and establish the possibilities of survival of the aircrew and passengers.”
Following the inquiry conducted by the Air Force station at Sulur, the IAF concluded that “it is unlikely that the missing personnel on board the ill-fated aircraft would have survived the accident.”
This after “careful scrutiny of the circumstantial evidence available and in light of existence search and rescue operation carried out,” the letter states.
The IAF has also requested family members to sign the “certificate of presumption of death” in order to begin legal proceedings for compensation.
In an effort to console the bereaved family members, the IAF in its letter states that it has “spared no efforts whatsoever in trying to locate the aircraft and the missing personnel.”
“No fewer than 201 search and rescue sorties, using all suitable aircraft at our disposal were undertaken. Approximately 2,17,800 square Nautical Miles (Sq Nm) has been covered multiple number of times by these aircrafts,” the letter stated adding that even date from international emergency response teams and satellites from USA also “did not help in getting any concrete information about the missing aircraft.”