GAUHATI, India – Rescue teams have located the wreckage of a helicopter that could be the one that disappeared over the weekend while carrying the chief minister of a northeastern Indian state, a government minister said Wednesday.
Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said parts of the helicopter and at least three bodies had been spotted in a mountainous and densely forested area of Arunachal Pradesh state.
"The team has sighted the remains of the aircraft. An army team should be reaching the crash site on foot within a short while," Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi.
The single-engine helicopter carrying Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, two pilots and two other passengers lost radio contact Saturday around 20 minutes after taking off from the Buddhist mountain retreat of Tawang en route to the state capital, Itanagar.
Khandu, 56, is a former army intelligence official elected in 2007 as Arunachal Pradesh's top official.
About 4,000 Indian police, army, paramilitary and villagers took part in an extensive ground search, with air force helicopters searching the region from the air.
Police in neighboring Bhutan also joined the search, while Buddhist monks in local temples prayed for divine help in finding the aircraft.
Air crashes are common in that area of the Himalayas, where dozens of American planes went down during World War II. Pilots have long referred to it as "The Hump," describing the large mountains separating India from Bhutan.