TODAY -
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister dead in chopper crash
Source: The Sangai Express / PTI

Hyderabad, September 03 2009: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajsekhara Reddy, a charismatic leader who won for his Congress party two successive spectacular electoral verdicts, was killed when his helicopter crashed and exploded on a hill in the Nallamala forest ranges yesterday.

Also dead in the crash were his Principal Secretary K Subramanyam, Chief Security Officer A S C Wesley and pilot Group Captain S K Bhatia and co pilot M S Reddy.

"The chopper hit a cliff of a hillock, crashed and exploded.

All the five persons in the ill-fated helicopter were burnt to death," state's Finance Minister K Rosaiah and Chief Secretary P Ramakanth Reddy told a press conference, a day after the government-owned twin-engined Bell 430 chopper went missing an hour after take off from here at 0830 hours.

77-year-old Rosaiah, senior Congress leader and number two in the Cabinet, is likely to be made the Acting Chief Minister while the Congress Legislature Party is expected to meet in the next few days to decide on a successor to Reddy.

Reddy's body will be kept for public view in Hyderabad tomorrow before being taken to his hometown Pulivendla in Kadapa for last rites tomorrow.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi are going to Hyderabad.

The Union Cabinet, which met in Delhi and condoled his death, decided to accord a State funeral for him.

National flag will fly half-mast all over the country today and tomorrow while Central government offices will remain closed in Andhra Pradesh tomorrow.

Reddy, who died at the age of 60, is survived by wife Vijaya Lakshmi, son Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, also an MP, and daughter Sharmila.

The Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition L K Advani and host of other leaders cutting across political divide condoled Reddy's death and hailed him as a mass leader who worked tirelessly for the people.

The helicopter, which was headed for Chittoor, about 600 km in the southern end of the state, deviated 18 km from its regular path towards east near Rudrakoduru in the Nallamala ranges in Kurnool district in rain and bad weather, the Chief Secretary said.

Reddy was headed for a surprise visit to a village in Chittoor for direct interaction with people to check the delivery mechanism of a welfare programme.

The charred bodies of Reddy and the other four and the wreckage of the chopper which had broken into several parts were located at about 0830 hours by an IAF helicopter after a massive aerial and ground search operation.

The bodies, which were located on a hillock about 8 kms from Atmakur and 39 nautical kms east of Kurnool, were on the verge of getting decomposed because of incessant rains.

Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju ruled out sabotage behind the crash, saying it was an accident while Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said a probe has been inititated to ascertain the cause of the mishap.

The chopper might have drifted from its path because of a large cloud formation due to inclement weather and ended up hitting the cliff, the Chief Secretary said.

The helicopter crashed 10 km away from Rudrakoduru on a hostile terrain and army commandos had to slither down with the help of a rope from a rescue helicopter.

Except the tail portion, the body of the Bell-430 helicoper of AP Aviation Corporation was reduced to bits and pieces in the mishap.

"Initially three bodies were traced and then the fourth one.

It took a while to locate the fifth body.

We have identified the bodies from the dresses," Director General of Police S S P Yadav said.

Rosaiah described Reddy's demise as a "great loss" to the country.

To him, it was a personal loss, he said which he was not able to digest.

In Delhi, Congress Core Group met in the morning as the news trickled.

After the meeting, Home Minister P Chidambaram announced the death.

"With a very deep sense of regret we have to announce the death of YS Rajashekhar Reddy.

He was a tall leader and it is a big loss to the country," he said.

He said the cause of the crash was not known immediately.

In the evening, Congress Working Committee met also met to condole the death.

K Rosaiah sworn in as Andhra CM: Hyderabad, Sep 3 (PTI) Finance Minister K Rosaiah, who is the senior most Congress leader of Andhra Pradesh, was today sworn-in as Chief Minister following the death of incumbent Y S Rajasekhara Reddy.

Governor N D Tiwari administered the oath of office and secrecy to Rosaiah at a simple function at Raj Bhavan.

He was the only one to be sworn in.

His swearing came within hours of official declaration of death of Reddy, whose helicopter crashed in Kurnool yesterday.

After taking the oath, he drove straight to the State Secretariat where he met all the ministers of the Reddy Cabinet.


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