The Indian Air Force (IAF)’s Mi-17V5 chopper with multiple people onboard crashed near Tamil Nadu’s Coonoor on Wednesday, killing India’ss first Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat.
The helicopter had four crew members and nine other passengers onboard at the time of the incident other than the CDS.
Confirming Rawat’s demise, the IAF said, “Gen Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) was on a visit to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course today. With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident. Gp Capt Varun Singh SC, Directing Staff at DSSC with injuries is currently under treatment at Military Hospital, Wellington.”
Group Captain Varun Singh, decorated with the Shaurya Chakra on Independence Day this year, was the lone survivor and was being treated for injuries at the Military Hospital in Wellington.
General Rawat, 63, was on his way to the Defense Services Staff College in Wellington where he was to deliver a lecture. His wife, president of the Defense Wives Welfare Association, was accompanying him along with members of the CDS staff.
In the morning, they had flown in an Embraer aircraft from Delhi to the Sulur Air Force Station near Coimbatore. At Sulur, they boarded an Mi-17V5 helicopter which crashed at Katteri, near Coonoor, in the Nilgiris shortly after noon.
Announcing General Rawat’s death, the IAF, in a Twitter post, said: “With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident.”
It said an Mi-17V5 helicopter “with a crew of 4 members carrying the CDS and 9 other passengers met with a tragic accident near Coonoor”. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered.
Rawat, the country’s first CDS, also headed the Department of Military Affairs. He was appointed to the two posts on January 1, 2020 for a three-year term after completing his term as the Chief of the Indian Army.
The President, who is the Supreme Commander of the armed forces, said: “I am shocked and anguished over the untimely demise of Gen. Bipin Rawat and his wife, Madhulika ji. The nation has lost one of its bravest sons. His four decades of selfless service to the motherland was marked by exceptional gallantry and heroism. My condolences to his family. It’s deeply painful for me to learn of the loss of lives in the chopper crash. I join the fellow citizens in paying tributes to each of those who died while performing their duty. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families.”
Prime Minister Modi described General Rawat as “an outstanding soldier” and a “true patriot” who “greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus”.
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