Indian CDS General Bipin Rawat, wife Madhulika Rawat, 11 others die in IAF chopper crash in Tamil Nadu
NEW DELHI ( Web News )
Indian Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat on Wednesday died after an Indian Air Force chopper he was on board crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiris district. His wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 others were also killed in the mishap, the Indian Air force (IAF) said.
Reports said 14 passengers, including crew members, were on board the ill-fated helicopter that crashed on its way from Sulur to Wellington reportedly due to low visibility under foggy conditions. It is being said 11 of the 14 passengers were killed in the mishap.
Rawat had taken a flight from Delhi to Sulur earlier in the day and that flight had nine people on board. The flight from Sulur included five more.
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is scheduled to brief Parliament on the crash. He has already spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi before paying a visit to Rawat’s residence in Delhi.
“My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their loved ones in this accident. Praying for the speedy recovery of Gp Capt Varun Singh, who is currently under treatment at the Military Hospital, Wellington”
Rajnath Singh tweeted.
He said that General Rawat had served the country with exceptional courage and diligence. As the first Chief of Defence Staff he had prepared plans for jointness of our Armed Forces. “Deeply anguished by the sudden demise of Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other Armed Forces personnel in an extremely unfortunate helicopter accident today in Tamil Nadu” Rajnath Singh tweeted. “His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country” he said.
According to passenger details, besides Rawat and his wife, Brigadier LS Lidder, Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh, NK Gursewak Singh, NK Jitendra Kr, L/Naik Vivek Kumar, L/Naik B Sai Teja and Hav Satpal were travelling in the Mi-17VH choppper.
“An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter, with CDS Gen Bipin Rawat on board, met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. An inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident,” the IAF tweeted.
Tamil Nadu chief minister, MK Stalin, instructed the local administration to provide the best possible medical care to the injured. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh have also been briefed over the incident.
Indian news agency “ANI” tweeted visuals from the crash site, showing the wreckage of the copter consumed by fire in a dense forested area in Nilgiris district. According to the wire service, Rawat’s family was also on board the ill-fated chopper.
Media reports said the chopper took off from Sulur Air Force Station on Wednesday afternoon. The air force said an inquiry was underway into the accident.
The Mi-17 helicopter, which first entered service in the 1970s and is in wide use by defence services around the world, has been involved in a number of accidents over the years.
Fourteen people died in a crash last month when an Azerbaijani military Mi-17 chopper went down during a training flight.
In 2019, four Indonesian soldiers were killed and five others wounded in central Java in another training accident involving the aircraft.
CDS General Bipin Rawat is the highest-serving official in the Indian armed forces, who was appointed to the newly created post of CDS, a day before he was set to retire as the army chief on December 31, 2019. As part of his new assignment, Gen Rawat was heading the new Department of Military Affairs in the Defence Ministry.
In Dec 2015, the Modi government had appointed Gen Rawat as the army chief by superseding two senior officers.
Rawat comes from a military family with several generations having served in the Indian armed forces.
The general joined the army as a second lieutenant in 1978 and has four decades of service behind him, having commanded forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir and along the Line of Actual Control bordering China.
He is credited with reducing insurgency on India’s northeastern frontier and supervised a cross-border counter-insurgency operation into neighbouring Myanmar.
Rawat is considered close to the Modi government and turned heads last month when he reportedly made an approving reference to “lynching terrorists” in occupied Kashmir.