Heroic! Odisha-born IAF pilot rescues German couple stranded in Himachal

Bhubaneswar: Odisha-born Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot S.K. Pradhan, who is known for his high degree of professional skill and exemplary leadership, 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.

Pradhan, a Wing Commander of Western Air Command and Wing Commander Debashish Dey airlifted Michael and his wife Annette to safety on Tuesday morning.

For two days incessant snowfall prevented any movement and by then the couples’ supplies had run out.

According to a statement by the Air Force, the German couple were trekking when they were caught in a blizzard. Two days of incessant snowfall completely prevented any movement to the area.  When the couple’s supplies had run out, Michael decided to activate his Personal Rescue Beacon as a last resort.

A message about a Personal Rescue Beacon (PRB) was activated close to Pingdong La which was received at the Regional Coordination Centre for rescue on Monday.

This message was relayed immediately to Western Air Command and the Siachen Pioneers Helicopter unit based at Leh was tasked to investigate.

Two helicopters, piloted by Dey and Pradhan, left to locate the beacon at 6 am.

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,” he said.

The rescued German couple were immediately transferred to a medical at Leh and are recuperating well, IAF sources said.

In February last year, Pradhan had also rescued a pregnant woman, suffering from eyesight loss and dysphagia (blockage of throat causing inability to swallow), from a remote village called Kurgiak located in a valley of Shinkun La pass in Ladakh.

Pradhan, who hails from Bhubaneswar, won many a hearts by ferrying hundreds of people to safety during the devastating floods in Uttarakhand in 2013.  His wife, Khushboo Gupta, is also an IAF pilot who currently flies Cheetah choppers.

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