AP mourns YSRs demise

Twenty four hours after Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy disappeared while on his way from Hyderabad to Chittoor in AP, his body has been retrieved from the site atop a hill in the thickly forested area of Nallamala where his helicopter crash-landed.

The bodies of his YSR's special secretary P Subramaniam, Chief Security Officer ASC Weseley and that of a pilot have been recovered. The body of one pilot is yet to be found, sources said.
The BEL-430 chopper was piloted by Group Captain S K Bhatia and Captain M S Reddy.

YSR's wife Vijayalaxmi and family members were informed of the tragedy. While his son and Member of Parliament Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy camped in Kurnool to coordinate the search operations, YSR's daughter Sharmila and her children reached Hyderabad from Bangalore in the early hours of Thursday.

The chief minister's son-in-law evangelist Brother Anil Kumar is returning to Hyderabad by cutting short his visit to the US. Sources said that crack commandos who were dropped over the crash site found and retrieved the bodies. The bodies are being flown to Hyderabad were a post-mortem will be conducted.

Initial reports indicate that the chopper had a major crash. The reasons are yet to be ascertained.

Earlier, the Chief Minister's office was able to establish mobile connection links with Chief Security Officer Weseley. But he did not respond to repeated cell phone calls and SMS. BSNL had established signals to the area and official in Hyderabad were able to call and SMS the CSO. That gave a fair indication that there may not be any survivors.

There was utter shock and disbelief in the State Secretariat where senior ministers, officials and others had gathered. As the news trickled in, people around the secretariat were found dismayed. Close to the Secretariat, the Ganesh immersion ceremony which was taking place has been scaled down.
YSR, 60, had just completed 110 days in office in his second term when he met an untimely end.
Senior Congress leaders are in Hyderabad to assess the situation.

A visibly distraught and at times emotional Congress president Sonia Gandhi told media persons outside the party headquarters on Thursday that she and other members of the Congress were deeply saddened by the death of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajsekhara Reddy and the four other people who had accompanied him in a helicopter that crashed in the Nallamala Forest Range on Wednesday.

"The death of Dr. Y.S. Rajsekhara Reddy is a huge loss for the party, for all of us, for me personally, for the state of Andhra Pradesh and for the country. He was a hardworking and committed person. We are deeply saddened by his death and that of the others who accompanied him," she said, adding that his historic padyatra (in 2003) had helped bring the Congress back to power in Andhra Pradesh.

She described him as a man of vision and dynamism who worked with dedication for the welfare of the people. Recalling his role in the preparations for this year's general elections, she said that Reddy had said that the party and its leadership should trust him to bring it back to power in Andhra Pradesh for a second consecutive term, as he and other local Congress leaders had worked hard to win the faith of the people.That he ensured a landslide victory in both the assembly and general elections for the Congress, made his death all the more sad, Gandhi said.

The Prime Minster, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who was at the party headquarters for a meeting of the Congress core committee, said: Soniaji has summed up the feelings of anguish and great sorrow that all Congress men feel. The Congress has lost an outstanding and committed politician. Mr. Reddy worked tirelessly for the implementation of various welfare schemes. He will be remembered for his commitment to the development of Andhra Pradesh.

"The messages came hours after the Army and the Air Force homed in on the missing chopper carrying Reddy and four others about 40 nautical miles east of the Kurnool mountaineous area. Para-commandos were dropped in the area and they took a couple of hours to report the discovery of the five bodies on a hilltop in a decomposed state. Andhra Pradesh Government Chief Secretary P.Ramakanth Reddy said the copter hit the top of SreeSailam hill in the Nallamalla forest area before exploding into bits and pieces.Speaking to newsmen here on Thursday, Reddy said: "According to the initial reports, the pilots of the copter appeared to have deviated from the given track or route due to the bad weather and hit the top of the hillock, crashed and then blasted into bits and pieces. Only the tail of the copter is remaining."He explained "The terrain was very difficult, only the specialized commandos who are trained to handle such situations, could go to the area."Two army helicopters failed to identify the location of the crash. Commandos descended from the copter and conducted the search operation,"Reddy said."Initially, the commandos located three bodies, the other two were scattered at different places. So, it took some time to locate them," Reddy explained."All the bodies are in a state of decay due to the heavy pouring since Wednesday morning, and they were burnt and charred."Reddy said.

In the matter like this the administration has to take utmost care, that's the reason the confirmation has been delayed," he added.The Andhra Pradesh Government has announced five days of state mourning for Reddy. The national flag will fly at half-mast during this period in the state. The Union Cabinet, through a resolution, has said that Reddy will be accorded a state funeral.

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