"I don't want to live without my son," said the mother of Flight Lieutenant Advitiya Bal, the 26-year-old Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot who lost his life in the MIG-21 aircraft crash in Rajasthan's Barmer on Thursday, 28 July. Surrounded by family members at their residence in Jinder Malhu village in Jammu's Ranbir Singh Pura, she was inconsolable.
Bal's grandmother sat in a chair, sobbing while clutching a picture of Advitiya in his younger days.
The family is shocked by Bal's sudden death. They had celebrated his 26th birthday just a few days ago, on 16 July.
Scores of family members, friends, government officials, and villagers have been visiting the residence since morning to offer condolences and support.
"We bring up our children, make them study well, think they will do something great, but then..." one of Bal's uncles told a news channel.
The aircraft crashed near Barmer on Thursday while on a training sortie. Both pilots on board the twin-seater plane lost their lives. Wing Commander M Rana, who hailed from Himachal Pradesh, was killed along with Bal.
An alumnus of Sainik School Nagrota, Bal later joined the National Defence Academy (NDA). The walls of his family house are donned by pictures of Advitiya from NDA and his graduation day.
A Village Mourns the Death of a 'Bold, Promising Boy'
Advitiya was a promising boy, his relative Shyam Lal told mediapersons.
"An official called his father, Swarn Lal, late last night to inform him (of the crash). The entire village was saddened by the news. There is an atmosphere of mourning in the whole village, everyone is sad. He was a very capable, bold, intelligent child who grew up in this village."Shyam Lal
Shyam Lal said that Bal's father Swarn Lal, a former Indian Army officer, is enroute to Jodhpur via Delhi to bring his son's body back home for his last rites, that are likely to take place tomorrow.
"His father left early morning from here. He will go to Delhi first, then he will go to Jodhpur. Let's see when the body comes, how the formalities take place. They will hand over the body after the formalities. It is expected that it will come by noon tomorrow," Lal said.
The MiG-21 Aircraft Crash
The twin seater MiG-21 trainer aircraft of the IAF was airborne for a training sortie from Utarlai air base in Rajasthan, the IAF said in a statement on Thursday night.
"At 9:10 pm this evening, an IAF MiG 21 trainer aircraft met with an accident in the western sector during a training sortie. Both pilots sustained fatal injuries," the IAF said.
"IAF deeply regrets the loss of lives and stands firmly with the bereaved families. A court of Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident," the statement added.
Nicknamed 'the flying coffin,' the MiG-21 aircraft has a poor safety record.
Condolences poured in from across the country for the families of the two pilots.
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari following the crash on Thursday night. Singh also took to Twitter to express his condolences and said that he was "deeply anguished by the loss of two Air Warriors."