01 copy, a photo by Chindits on Flickr.
Pilots of Leh based Helicopter Unit evacuated two foreign nationals, Czech brothers, Mr Lucas and Mr Tomas Pfeifer from the higher reaches of Padam valley in Zanskar ranges of Ladakh region on 5th August when two members of the trekking team sustained injuries after a fall.
Members of a Czech Republic trekking expedition, suffered injuries while crossing a river near Testha Village in Zanskar Valley. Mr Lucas Pfeifer was critically injured in a fall resulting in knee fracture and ligament tear, rendering him completely immobile; his brother Mr Tomas also sustained injuries while trying to support him during the fall. The injury, inclement weather, high altitude and their remote location combined forced the team to request for emergency air rescue through their embassy and Govt of J&K.
The Leh based IAF Helicopter Unit, nicknamed ‘Siachen Pioneers’ received a message at 0130h on the night of 5th August for the evacuation. Immediately the Commanding Officer called in a briefing for the aircrew and supervised their planning for safe conduct of the mission that stretched into the wee hours of the morning. After which the entire team took much needed rest for a few hours, until the daybreak
A two helicopter rescue team got airborne at 0600 hrs on 5th August. The rescue team comprised of Sqn Ldr S Agarwal, Flt Lt Maneesh Singh and Flt Lt C Shekhawat, led by Wg Cdr DC Tiwari. They knew well the challenges they were about to face and decided to take on the mission upholding the Units tradition. Operating their machines to fringes of it operational limits, in marginal weather that had kept flying on hold on the previous day, flying in one of the most treacherous valley of Ladakh region was a tough ask for the aircrew involved. Accurate navigation to the remote location and correct assessment of the prevailing situation ensured that the helicopters reached the site at the earliest, this was vital for saving the life of the critically injured expedition members. After assessing the landing site that was unprepared and had a slope gradient that was just within the limits of the helicopter, Wg Cdr DC Tiwari manoeuvred his helicopter to land in the restricted area with only a marginal reserve of power. Without wasting any time the casualty was taken onboard while the second helicopter maintained a close vigil from the top. The same precautions were observed by the second aircraft piloted by Sqn Ldr S Agarwal, who picked up the second member. The “Siachen Pioneers” crew displayed highest level of professionalism and courage, without fearing for their own safety, resulting in the successful completion of the mercy mission which was more than evident from the convincing smile of Pfeifer brothers, Lucas and Tomas, on landing at AF Station, Leh. The Commanding Officer credits the success of mission to “…. the exemplary team work and motivation of all Unit pilots and personnel, including the ground crew who maintain the machines meticulously at all times.”