Raisi's Death Brings Back Memories of YSR Copter Crash

Update: 2024-05-20 18:55 GMT
Rescue team members work at the scene of a crash of a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Varzaghan in northwestern Iran, Monday. (Image: AP)

Hyderabad: It was business as usual in Secretariat, the seat of power of the erstwhile combined Andhra Pradesh, on September 2, 2009, till the news about the helicopter carrying then Chief Minister Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy went missing at noon.

The C block where the Chief Minister’s Office was located engulfed in silence and disbelief but everyone present were hoping that Dr Reddy, fondly referred to as YSR, for whom facing head-on the rough and tumble of life was not new, would emerge out of the dense Nallamala forest safely. The copter lost contact with the Air Traffic Control while flying above the forest in very bad weather.

The reports on May 19 of the copter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi going missing, and the news of his death in a crash in mountains on Monday, reminded several people in the two Telugu states of the incident involving YSR.

“I still wish the crash involving YSR would not have happened as the socio-political spectrum of Andhra Pradesh, which was later bifurcated and the state of Telangana was born, was never the same,” says former bureaucrat K. Prabhakar Reddy.

Prabhakar Reddy, who served as deputy secretary to YSR, used to accompany his boss on tours but he missed the journey as he retired just two days before the tragic incident. He came to his office on the fateful day to collect his books and went on to monitor the arrangements to airlift the bodies from Kurnool to Hyderabad and later to Idupulapaya, the native village of YSR.

Former chief minister K. Rosaiah, YSR’s close aide K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao and then chief secretary P. Ramakanth Reddy rushed to the Secretariat and coordinated the rescue operations.

The Centre, Andhra Pradesh and the neighbouring Karnataka launched massive and perhaps country’s biggest air, land and satellite search operations to locate YSR’s missing copter. Several unconfirmed reports about spotting the copter or the injured YSR being taken out of forest did rounds and rekindled the hopes but as the sun went down everyone.

Several Army helicopters, highly sophisticated remote sensing aircraft of the Indian Space Research Organisation, 5,000 police personnel including those drawn from CRPF and army were pressed into service. The search did not yield any result on the day of crash due to sunset and it was on September 3 the Army helicopters spotted the debris of the Bell 430 in which then chief minister was forced to travel as the modern AugustaWestland copter bought by the government was grounded for maintenance. Incidentally, Raisi was flying in another model of the Bell helicopter.


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