Odia Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot SK Pradhan has added another feather to his illustrious cap as he along with another IAF pilot rescued a German couple stranded in Pingdom La in the Lahaul-Spiti region in Himachal Pradesh.
Michael and his wife Annette were trekking when they were caught in a blizzard. For two days incessant snowfall prevented any movement and by then the couples’ supplies had run out. Michael decided to activate his personal rescue beacon as a last resort on Monday.
The Siachen Pioneers Helicopter unit, which is based in Leh, was asked to investigate the beacon call. However, since it was evening and weather in the region did not permit a launch, it was decided to get airborne at daybreak.
Two helicopters, piloted by Wing Commander Dey and Wing Commander Pradhan, left to locate the beacon at 6 am. Initially, they could not find any clues to who sent the message.
“We went back to where the footprints had started and worked our way backwards. A little ahead we found a grey protrusion which initially looked like a rock face, but on closer inspection found the edges to be flapping due to the wind. Soon Michael came out of the tent, which we thought was a rock and waved to us” said Wing Commander Dey.
Wing Commander Pradhan added that since the site was on an incline they could not land the helicopter. “I held on a low hover and my co-pilot jumped out to ascertain that these were the people we were looking for and their medical condition. Both were able to move about, though the man had developed frostbite. I picked up the woman and asked Wing Commander Dey to come down and pick up Michael in a similar manner. Both on board we flew back safely to Leh,” said Pradhan, the captain of the second chopper.
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