Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, 12 others confirmed dead in TN chopper crash
TN Forest Minister K Ramachandran told The New Indian Express that the accident took place because of thick mist engulfing the area
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and his wife Madhulika Rawat have been killed along with 11 others when the Army chopper they were flying in crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu, the IAF confirmed on Wednesday.
The tragic incident happened when the chopper was heading for Wellington from Sulur.
The IAF has issued a list of names of General Rawat's staff on board the crashed chopper. They include Brigadier LS Lidder, Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh, Naik Gursewak Singh, Naik Jitendra Kumar, Lance Naik Vivek Kumar, Lance Naik B Sai Teja and Havaldar Satpal.
Group Captain Varun Singh SC, Directing Staff at DSSC, who was also on board, is currently undergoing treatment at Military Hospital, Wellington, said the IAF.
The IAF has ordered an inquiry into the accident.
An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter, with CDS Gen Bipin Rawat on board, met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu.— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) December 8, 2021
An Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident.
TN Forest Minister K Ramachandran told The New Indian Express that the accident took place because of thick mist engulfing the area.
Fire Service personnel and local people helped in the rescue operations which was a difficult one as the site of the accident is narrow and didn't allow for movement in large numbers, Ramachandran said.
The chopper was on its way from the Sulur IAF base to the Defence Services College (DSC) at Wellington when it crashed. The mishap happened at Nanjappanchathiram area amid heavy mist and early visuals showed the helicopter in flames.
General Rawat, 63, the first Chief of Defence Staff, was an alumnus of St. Edward School, Shimla and the National Defence Academy. He assumed office as the Chief of the Army Staff on 31 Dec 2016 and was elevated to his current role on January 1, 2020.
He had boarded an Embraer jet at Delhi at 8:47 am, and landed at Sulur at 11:34 am. He then got on board the MI 17 V5 helicopter at 11:48 am. At 12:22 pm, Air Traffic Control said contact had been lost, according to sources. The Chief of Defence Staff was slated to deliver a lecture at the Staff College.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh earlier met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and briefed him about the accident. He also paid a visit to General Rawat's residence.
Condolences pour in
The President said "the nation has lost one of its bravest sons".
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the late general as an outstanding soldier. "A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus. His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional. His passing away has saddened me deeply. Om Shanti," the PM tweeted.
Home Minister Amit Shah remembered General Rawat as "one of the bravest soldiers, who has served the motherland with utmost devotion."
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh termed the loss "irreparable".
Former Chief of Army staff and the Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways and Civil Aviation, General VK Singh tweeted, "Today we have lost a brave and distinguished soldier of the country in a tragic accident. The death of him and his wife in the helicopter crash is very sad. His service to the country was important and will always be remembered. May God give strength to his family to bear this immense loss."
Congress MPs Rahul Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor too shared their condolences. "The crash must and will be investigated, but today is a day for prayer," Tharoor tweeted.