Rawat's wife, family members, defence officials were on the MI-17
An Indian Air Force helicopter, carrying Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat on board, crashed near Tamil Nadu’s Coonoor Wednesday afternoon. The Indian Air Force has confirmed that Gen Rawat was among the 13 people who died in the crash.
Footage from the scene showed a crowd of people trying to extinguish the fiery wreck with water buckets while a group of soldiers carried one of the passengers away on an improvised stretcher.
At least 13 bodies had been recovered from the scene of the crash, Tamil Nadu forests minister K. Ramachandran said according to the Times of India.
“Some of the injured have been taken to the hospital,” a fire department official in Coonoor told AFP.
The Indian Air Force later confirmed that Gen Rawat and his wife were among the dead.
It said only one survivor of the crash, Group Captain Varun Singh, was being treated for injuries at a military hospital.
Latest visuals from the spot (between Coimbatore and Sulur) where a military chopper crashed in Tamil Nadu. CDS Bipin Rawat, his staff and some family members were in the chopper.— ANI (@ANI) December 8, 2021
(Pics Source: Locals involved in search and rescue operation) pic.twitter.com/miALr88sm1
“An inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident,” the Indian Air Force tweeted.
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.
The chopper took off from the Sulur airbase in Coimbatore, a city in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu. It was heading to Wellington in Ooty, where a Defence Services Staff College is located.
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Lieutenant General Nadeem Raza and Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa have offered their condolences on loss of “precious lives” in the helicopter crash in India.
“General Nadeem Raza, CJCSC and General Qamar Javed Bajwa, COAS express condolences on the tragic death of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife and loss of precious lives in a helicopter crash in India,” said ISPR in a tweet.
Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu, NI(M) Chief of the Air Staff Pakistan Air Force has also expressed his condolences on the tragedy.
Rawat was from a military family with several generations having served in the Indian armed forces.
He joined the army as a second lieutenant in 1978 and had four decades of service behind him, having commanded forces in Indian-administered Kashmir and along the Line of Actual Control bordering China.
He was credited with reducing insurgency on India’s northeastern frontier and supervised a cross-border counter-insurgency operation into neighbouring Myanmar.
Rawat was chief of the 1.3 million-strong army from 2017 to 2019 before his elevation to defence services chief, which analysts said was to improve integration between the army, navy, and air force.
Critics say he was given the position by Modi government after making political statements against Pakistan.
He was considered close to the Modi government and turned heads last month when he reportedly made an approving reference to “lynching terrorists” in the contested territory of Kashmir.
The Mi-17 helicopter, which first entered service in the 1970s and is in widely use by defense 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.
With additional information from AFP