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, and 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.
There was no official confirmation of the deaths, but highly placed Congress sources in Delhi said that the bodies have been found. An official statement is expected shortly.
A scheduled meeting of the Union Cabinet was cancelled following the tragedy.
The news of the tragedy filtered out after a meeting of the Congress core group at the Prime Minister’s house but fears grew since Wednesday night when search operations to locate the chopper were unsuccessful.
Exactly 24 hours after it went missing losing radio contact at 0930 hrs, Air Force helicopters from Bangalore on Thursday located the wreckage of the chopper on the Rudrakonda Hill, 70 kms from east of Kurnool.
The helicopter took off at 0835 hrs from the old Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad on Wednesday.
Air Commodore Sagar Bharti of the Bangalore air command announced the location of the chopper but gave no indication of the fate of passengers.
He said two helicopters were making attempts to land in the area.
However, Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai gave indications that the 11-year-old Bell 430 helicopter could have crashed. The Air Force rescue team were attempting to land para commandos through ropes to access the area.
The Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior ministers Pranab Mukherjee, A.K. Antony, P. Chidambaram and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel met in the core group to discuss the situation in the wake of the death of the powerful Congress leader in Andhra Pradesh.