June 24, 1980, Forty Years Ago: Sanjay Gandhi dead
Sanjay Gandhi died this morning when the plane he was co-piloting crashed in Chanakyapuri. Gandhi and his co-pilot Subhash Saxena died instantaneously when the plane meant for stunt flying nose-dived and crashed after hitting a tree. By the time, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi reached the accident site, both bodies had been placed in an ambulance. The Prime Minister asked for the red blanket covering Sanjay Gandhi’s body to be removed and when she saw the mangled remains, she broke down and wept. After the initial shock, she regained her composure and though she wept now and then, for the most part, she hid her grief behind her dark glasses.
A spin caused it
Aviation experts who examined the crash site have said preliminary investigations indicated that the plane crashed while the pilot was performing a spin and was about to pull up. Experts said the plane had probably drifted lower than the minimum prescribed height of 500 feet to 1,000 feet. That the plane had crashed while performing a spin is evident from the fact that it did not drag for a long distance after hitting the branches. The crash site was barely a few hundred metres away from where a trainer aircraft had crashed a few years ago.
There was an atmosphere of stunned silence in Parliament as the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha met briefly to mourn the death of Sanjay Gandhi. The Lok Sabha heard the announcement of the death in the quivering voice of Speaker Balram Jakhar. The adjournment of the Rajya Sabha was without precedent. The Chairman M Hidayatullah played a glowing tribute to the Prime Ministr’s younger son, who he said had come to represent the younger generation.