CG791: Month after Coast Guard Dornier vanished, officer’s father writes to PM Modi. Says, “Don’t let it remain a mystery”.

Story appeared in MAIL TODAY newspaper on July 7, 2015
Story appeared in MAIL TODAY newspaper on July 7, 2015

·         Does no country in the world have the technology to track the missing Dornier plane? If so when will seek the assistance from them?

·         In future what should be done to prevent such tragedies?

·         If there is a question mark on the safety of defence personnel, won’t parents think twice before allowing their wards to join the armed forces?

With three pointed questions to none less than the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, father of the untraceable Coast Guard navigator Deputy Commandant MK Soni has called into question the efforts put in by the government to trace the Dornier plane and its three crew members, exactly a month after it disappeared.

On  June 8, it was at 2123hours that CG791, while returning to Chennai, suddenly vanished from the radar screens of personnel at Trichy, 95 nautical miles south, off Chennai. All efforts to trace the whereabouts since then have been fruitless. In his letter to the PM which was sent on Saturday, a copy of which is with the correspondent, Soni’s father, Radheshyam Soni pleads with Modi to ensure that this disappearance does not remain a mystery forever.

Deputy Commandant MK Soni was the navigator onboard CG791
Deputy Commandant MK Soni was the navigator onboard CG791

Soni, in his short letter to the PM wrote, “Request you to please look into this matter with utmost urgency. The search process needs to be fast-tracked and we should do whatever is required to get the results ASAP.” Expressing satisfaction with the steps taken by both the Coast Guard and Navy, he stated that they have done their “best” yet there are no “concrete results”. Before concluding, he added, “We are dying every second. Please understand our situation and let’s not have the sacrifice of 3 young pilots go missing as a mystery.”

On the other side of the divide, Coast Guard officials confirmed that the search effort has been ramped up from what it has been like in the last few days. Apart from the naval submarine INS Sindhudhvaj which has been re-deployed in the search area to sniff around for signals emanating from the wreck, Coast Guard has also sought the re-entry of Olympic Canyon, a Remotely Operated Vehicle support ship owned by Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) for going right down to the bottom of the floor and checking. This is in addition to four surface ships of the navy and coast guard which are deployed at all times and two dedicated plane sorties that are conducted over the area every day to pick up any sign of debris.

When asked if there was any additional assistance that could be sought, a Coast Guard official revealed, “We have been asking our counterparts in advanced countries like US and Japan but there too we are drawing a blank.” Another senior MoD official said, “There is nothing that we have not done till date. If anyone suggests it, we are willing to do it but it’s just a freak thing where nothing is yielding.”

Soni's family members await his return
Soni’s family members await his return

‘Frustrating! Despair follows hope’

Describing the difficulties involved, a coast guard official said, “We are unable to localize the suspected site despite repeated attempts. False echoes are emanating. Every time we pick up a signal and search, the target has eluded us. The ROV from Olmpic Canyon is our best bet as it has two ROVs which can be lowered at a time and each of them has four cameras which can show of pictures of 5m in a 360 degree fashion. There too the weather is playing truant as RIL is unable to complete its activities and ship it to us.”


·         Four naval and coast guard ships patrol the suspected site of crash for any sign of debris from the plane

·         Two special Dornier plane flights are undertaken every day over the suspected site for the same reason

·         Submarine INS Sindhudhvaj has been re-deployed to scan the steep continental slope for any signals emanating from the downed Dornier’s beacon

·         Coast Guard has deployed smaller boats off Karaikal and Pondicherry to scan the waters there for any debris from the plane

·         Coast Guard has sought Reliance Industries Limited’s (RIL) ROV support vessel Olympic Canyon for at least four days

·         Hyderabad-based National Remote Sensing Centre has provided high resolution imagery along with mathematical modeling done by Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS)

·         ISRO has been roped in and is in touch with experts from Russia to pick up even the weakest of signals from the suspected wreck

·         All cargo ships, fishing vessels, naval and coast guard vessels in Palk Bay region have been asked to look out for debris

·         Naval survey ship with side scan sonar, highly advanced vessel Sagar Nidhi belonging to National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) has been used

·         Using state forest staff, mangrove swamps have been searched in the local area



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