India's top general Bipin Rawat, 12 others die in helicopter crash

India's top general Bipin Rawat, 12 others die in helicopter crash By A Robin - December 09, 2021
Helicopter crash

Helicopter crash

India's top military commander has died in a helicopter crash in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, BBC reported.

Gen. Bipin Rawat, India's first Chief of Defence Staff, and his wife were among 13 people who died in the crash. The only survivor, an Air Force Group Captain, is being treated for severe burns.

"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," the Indian Air Force (IAF) tweeted.

The person being treated at the military hospital in Wellington is "Group Captain Varun Singh", said the Air Force.

The IAF had confirmed a little before 2 pm that an Mi-17 V5 helicopter with General Rawat on board had "met with an accident near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu".

The helicopter crashed shortly after it took off from the Air Force base in Sulur at 11.45 am, Coimbatore, for Wellington in the Nilgiri Hills.

The General was heading to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington to address the faculty and students.

It was making its descent and would have landed in 10 more minutes when it came down, barely 10 km from a road. The Air Force has ordered an Inquiry into what happened.

Videos showed steaming wreckage scattered on a hillside and rescuers struggling through smoke and fire to locate bodies. Charred bodies were pulled out from under mangled metal and fallen trees.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, briefed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, called a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) at his residence. The Defense Minister and Army Chief MM Naravane visited General Rawat's home in Delhi long before the official announcement.

Singh called General Rawat's death an "irreparable loss" to the country and the forces.

General Rawat, 63, was appointed India's first-ever Chief of Defence Staff in January 2019. The position was created to integrate the three services — the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.

Although the Mi-17V5 is among the most sophisticated military transport helicopters, India's ageing air force fleet is often blamed for a high number of crashes.

In 2017, seven military personnel were killed in a crash in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. The helicopter was on a training sortie.

A year before that, another of the helicopters had crashed immediately after take-off during a military drill in the northern state of Uttarakhand. No casualties were reported then. — Agencies

By A Robin - December 09, 2021

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