Did a detour taken by the pilot of the Bell-430 helicopter in inclement weather on Wednesday cost the lives of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and four others?

Chief Secretary P. Ramakanth Reddy told journalists here on Thursday that because of “bad weather,” pilot S. K. Bhatia appeared to have taken a detour and “deviated sufficiently,” to the extent of 18 km towards the east, from the original flight path to Chittoor. Preliminary enquiries revealed that the copter hit the cliff of a hill covered with thick forest vegetation near Rudrakoduru in Kurnool district.

Resuming the search operations for the second day, five helicopters took off at 6.25 a.m. from the Atmakur area and one of them sighted the Bell-430 wreckage between 8.25 and 8.30 a.m. on the hill, 40 nautical miles away from Kurnool town.

As the terrain was hostile, the rescue IAF helicopters could not land at the crash site. With great difficulty, commandos slithered down using ropes from the hoist arm of one chopper. Initially, they located three bodies and later one more. It took them some time to locate the fifth body. They were soon joined on the ground by personnel of Greyhounds, the crack anti-naxal outfit, who helped in airlifting the bodies.

Director-General of Police S.S.P. Yadav said the bodies were identified on the basis of the remnants of clothes and personal belongings.

Asked why the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) of the Bell-430 helicopter did not function, Mr. Reddy said: “We don’t know.” There were instances in the past also when the ELT failed to function, he added.

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