Hyderabad: The bodies of Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Rajashekhara Reddy and his four co-passengers were brought to Kurnool for autopsy at about 1430 hrs IST on Thursday.
A huge crowd of mourners had gathered near APSP parade grounds in Kurnool where an IAF helicopter carrying the bodies landed. Security personnel had a tough time controlling the crowd.
The bodies, which have been charred beyond recognition, have been airlifted by a MI-8 helicopter of the Indian Air Force and have reached Hyderabad.
A large number of Congress workers and supporters have also gathered outside the Congress office in Hyderabad. Many of them were seen wailing and carrying placards praising the dead Andhra chief minister.
The chief minister's will be kept at Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad for the public to pay their homage.
His body will be flown to his hometown Pulivendula in Kadapa district on Friday when a state funeral will take place, Andhra Chief Secretary P Ramakanth Reddy said.
The Tricolour will fly at half mast in Delhi and all state capital on September 3 and 4. All Central and state government offices in Andhra Pradesh will remain closed September 4.
The mangled and burnt remains along with the charred remains of the YSR and his four co-passengers on board the helicopter was spotted on the top of Rudrakonda Hill, 74 kilometres east of Kurnool by Indian Air Force helicopters at 0830 hrs IST, nearly 24 hours after it lost contact with the Air Traffic Control at Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad.
The helicopter deviated 18 km from its path towards east, hit a cliff and crashed.
A team of Army para commandos had to slither down with the help of a rope from a rescue helicopter to reach the top of a hill deep inside Nallmalla forest to recover the charred remains of YSR, his Principal Secretary S Subramanyam, Chief Security Officer ASC Wesley, pilot Group Captain S K Bhatia and co-pilot M S Reddy.
According to Andhra Finance Minister K Rosaiah, Chief Secretary and Director General of Police SSP Yadav the twin-engine Bell 430 helicopter deviated 18 kilometres from its flight path over the Nallamalla forest in inclement weather, hit a hill and crashed killing all its occupants.
However, it is not yet clear why the helicopter, which was on its way to Chittoor from Hyderabad, deviated from its assigned path.
Except the tail portion, the body of the helicopter of AP Aviation Corporation was completely destroyed in the crash.
The tragic confirmation of the death and YSR and his co-passengers came in after a massive search operation involving the Indian Army, IAF, Central Reserve Police Force, Andhra Police's Greyhound commandos, specialised anti-terrorist force Organisation for Counter Terrorism and Operations (Octopus) and the new anti-Naxal force Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (Cobra).
CRPF personnel and Army jawans continued the search operation throughout the night inside the forest with the help of night vision devices even as aerial search operations had to be halted because of bad weather.
The IAF also pressed into service Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft which have synthetic aperture radar for high resolution ground mapping in and around Kurnool.
Satellite imagery was also used to trace the missing helicopter. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had also provided special low flying aircraft and remote sensing equipment and satellite imagery to aide the search operation.
Reddy had taken off for Chittoor from Hyderabad 0838 hrs IST for a government function as part of his new reach-out programme where he conducted surprise visits to villages around the state to check on development projects.
The chief minister was going to Chittoor to take stock of the following schemes - Arogya (free health care scheme), pension plans for aged and ration cards for all and NREGA implementation.
STATE FUNERAL FOR YSR
YSR will be given a state funeral on Friday while the national flag will fly at half mast in Delhi and all state capitals on Thursday and Friday, the Government announced.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters after a cabinet meeting in the Capital that the tricolour would also fly at half mast all over Andhra Pradesh in tribute to the chief minister.
All central government offices in Andhra Pradesh will remain shut Friday, Soni added.
Thursday's cabinet meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, observed a two-minute silence in memory of the chief minister.