Sulur mishap: Sole survivor Captain Varun Singh was honoured with Shaurya Chakra in August
Group Captain Singh was on board the Russian-made chopper as the liaison officer for the visit of Gen Rawat, India's senior-most military officer, to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington.
NEW DELHI: Group Captain Varun Singh, the lone survivor of the horrifying chopper crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu, was conferred with the Shaurya Chakra in August for averting a possible mid-air accident after his Tejas light combat aircraft suffered a major technical glitch last year.
Singh is now battling for life at a military hospital in Wellington. Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika and 11 armed forces personnel were killed in the Mi-17V5 helicopter crash in one of the biggest air accidents involving top military officials.
"Group Captain Varun Singh is on life support in the military hospital at Wellington and all efforts are being made to save his life," Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said while apprising Parliament on the crash.
Group Captain Singh was on board the Russian-made chopper as the liaison officer for the visit of Gen Rawat, India's senior-most military officer, to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington. He is currently serving as an instructor at the prestigious institute.
Group Captain Singh received Gen Rawat at the Sulur airbase from where the entourage was heading towards Wellington in the chopper. His father, Colonel (retd) KP Singh had served in the Army Air Defence (AAD).
Group Captain Singh was conferred with the Shaurya Chakra for displaying exemplary composure and skill when his Tejas aircraft developed the technical snag on October 12 last year. "Despite being in extreme physical and mental stress in an extreme life-threatening situation, he maintained exemplary composure and recovered the aircraft, thereby exhibiting exceptional flying skill," this award citation said.
Officials said his aircraft experienced a total loss of control with vicious manoeuvring and under such a scenario, the pilot was at liberty to abandon the aircraft. They said he evaluated the gravity of the situation and decided to bring back the aircraft safely.
"Faced with a potential hazard to his own life, he displayed extraordinary courage and skill to control and safely land the fighter aircraft saving hundreds of crore," the award citation said.
"The pilot went beyond the call of duty and landed the aircraft taking calculated risks. This allowed an accurate analysis of fault on the indigenously designed fighter and further institution of preventive measures against recurrence," it said.
Singh's family originally hails from Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh. Talking to PTI over phone, Group Captain Varun Singh's father Colonel KP Singh (retired), who is a resident of Bhopal, said, "He is being shifted to Bengaluru. I have reached Wellington."
Asked about his son's condition, he said, "I can't say anything about that. I am not sure." Lt Colonel Ishan R (retired), who lives next door to Col KP Singh's residence at Sun City on the Airport Road here, said he was hopeful that Group Captain Varun Singh will recover.
He said Col KP Singh and his wife Uma were in Mumbai at the place of their younger son Tanuj, who is Lt Commander in the Navy, when they got the unfortunate news on Wednesday. "I spoke to Colonel KP Singh this morning. He said his son was a fighter and will come out victorious (from the tragedy)," he said.
He recalled that Group Captain Varun Singh had earlier survived a life-threatening emergency while flying a Tejas aircraft during a test sortie last year. For his bravery, he was awarded the Shaurya Chakra this year.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday told Parliament that a tri-services inquiry led by Air Marshal Manavendra Singh has started investigation into the helicopter crash that killed Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and 12 others.
Singh said in a statement in the Lok Sabha that all efforts were being made to save Group Captain Varun Singh, who was on life support at the military hospital in Wellington.