People have been exploring the remote corners of the French Alps for decades in the hopes of finding the scattered wrecks of two planes that crashed more than 50 years ago. Just recently, they came across some of the most gruesome discoveries yet.
On Thursday, aviation collector Daniel Roche found the wreck of a plane, as well as a hand and the upper part of a leg, on the Bossons Glacier of Mont Blanc. The remains are believed to belong to passengers of one of two Air India planes to have crashed in the area. Due to the area's relatively cool temperatures, the body parts appear to have been preserved remarkably well.
"I had never found any significant human remains before," he told Agence France-Presse.
Roche contacted local authorities, who came and transported the remains back down to the Chamonix valley via helicopters. Experts now aim to analyze the body parts in the hopes of identifying the victims.
“These remains are probably not from the same person,” added Stephane Bozon of the local gendarmerie. ”They are probably from passengers, but between the two aircraft, it's difficult to say.”
In 1950, Air India flight 245, also known as the Malabar Princess, plummeted into the Mont Blanc in France, killing all 48 people onboard. Sixteen years later, another Air India passenger flight from Bombay to London crashed into the exact same mountain range, killing 117 people.
In regards to the second crash, local mountain guide Gerard Devoussoux was quoted as saying: "Another 15 meters (50 feet) and the plane would have missed the rock. It made a huge crater in the mountain. Everything was completely pulverized. Nothing was identifiable except for a few letters and packets."
One of those who died in the 1966 crash was Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha, an esteemed nuclear physicist known as "father of the Indian nuclear program". Two French mountaineers found a bag believed to be the property of Dr Bhabha and the Indian government around the area of Chamonix, French Alps, in 2012.
Along with having a slightly eccentric sense of curiosity, there’s another reason why searching among these wrecks has become such a draw. Three years ago, some mountain climbers hit the jackpot when they discovered a metal box containing precious emeralds, rubies, and sapphires, which were later valued by jewelers at over $260,000. A local newspaper, the Dauphiné Libéré, reported that if the relative of an owner is not found, the jewels could be given back to the climber.