With an Empty Coffin, Sukhoi Pilot’s Parents Struggle For Closure

Flight Lieutenant Achudev was killed in the Sukhoi jet crash in Assam-Arunachal border area on 23 May.

3 min read
Sukhoi pilot Flight Lieutenant Achudev’s parents with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan (right). (Photo Courtesy: <a href="http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/my-son-s-coffin-was-empty-flight-lieutenant-achudev-s-parents-struggle-find-closure-64704">The News Minute</a>)

In the first week of June, bereaved parents of Flight Lieutenant S Achudev cremated the remains of their son.

Achudev, who was killed in the Sukhoi jet crash in Assam-Arunachal border area on 23 May, was cremated with full state honours at his ancestral home in Kozhikode.

A month later, Achudev’s father Sahadevan told Asianet News that the coffin had been empty and they were struggling to find closure.

With no body recovered, the parents of the 26-year-old pilot have requested the prime minister and the president, in a letter, to probe if there is any mystery around their son’s death.

In a letter submitted through Member of Parliament from Kerala, A Sampath, Flight Lieutenant Achudev’s parents have rejected the official version of the Indian Air Force claiming that the search team could only recover Achudev’s half-burnt wallet.

Achudev’s father Sahadevan told Asianet News that he will not believe that his son is dead until the family receives the body.

Sukhoi pilot Flight Lieutenant Achudev’s parents. (Photo Courtesy: <a href="http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/my-son-s-coffin-was-empty-flight-lieutenant-achudev-s-parents-struggle-find-closure-64704">The News Minute</a>)
Sukhoi pilot Flight Lieutenant Achudev’s parents. (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)
(Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

“Until we get his body we believe that he is alive. We just got a part of my son’s wallet. If there is any mystery in it, it should be probed. If he is dead we need his body, if he is alive he should be found. The wallet we got is his, but the money, id cards inside it was not burnt, only a portion of the wallet was burnt. We need a detailed enquiry into it,” Sahadevan said.

It was reported widely in the media that Achudev’s remains were taken to his home town Kozhikode on 2 June.

However, a source in the Indian Air Force told TNM that the empty coffin may have been sent as a symbolic gesture.

An Indian Air Force officer told TNM on conditions of anonymity, “As a fighter pilot, when I got married, I told my wife that if ever I die in a crash, to never to open my coffin. You can imagine what happens to a pilot when they crash at such high speeds. You almost never recover anything. Still as a symbolic gesture, to offer some closure to the grieving family, we send whatever we recover.”

In a press meet held in Delhi, on Tuesday, A Sampath said that they have handed over the letter to the PM. “The family feels that he is still missing, an immediate investigation is needed. They have just sent a coffin. We have sought to continue search operations,” he said.

Demanding that the Air Force and the Central government continue their search, CPI (M) state secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told TNM that while the empty coffin was sent as a symbolic gesture, the family cannot believe that their son is no more. “A high level probe is necessary,” he said.

The 26-year-old’s last communication with his family was on 22 May when his father called him to wish him on his birthday.

Achudev along with Squadron leader Pankaj were declared dead by the Indian Air Force on 1 June.

The Sukhoi jet had crashed after taking off from the Tezpur Airbase on 23 May. The two pilots could not initiate ejection before the crash that occurred 60 kms from Tezpur Airbase. The wreckage of the Sukhoi-30 MKI jet was found on 26 May in a dense forest area in Arunachal Pradesh after a three-day search operation.

(The story first appeared in The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!