Helicopter Crash: India’s Military Chief, Wife, 11 Others Confirmed Dead
India’s military chief and his wife have been confirmed dead alongside 11 others, with only one survivor after their helicopter crashed and burst into flames on Wednesday morning, December 8.
General Bipin Rawat was on board a Russian-made Mi-17V5 chopper when it crashed in a forest near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, on Wednesday, Indian Air Force confirmed on Twitter.
Also on board the helicopter today were Rawat’s defence assistant, security commandos and an IAF pilot.
Gp Capt Varun Singh SC, Directing Staff at DSSC with injuries is currently under treatment at Military Hospital, Wellington.
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) December 8, 2021
The 63-year-old defence chief, his wife Madhulika Rawat and other officers were among 14 people on the chopper, which took off from Sulur Air Force Station this afternoon.
The helicopter, which had a crew of four, crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu state while en route from Sulur to the town of Wellington in Tamil Nadu to deliver a lecture when the helicopter crashed in Coonoor, the IAF said.
Footage seen online showed thick plumes of smoke billowing from the fiery wreck at the crash site in a dense forested area in the Nilgiris district.
While the cause of the crash is yet to be known, the lone survivor, Group Capt. Varun Singh, is being treated for his injuries at the Military Hospital in Wellington.
State broadcaster Doordarshan News and Press Trust of India, a news agency cooperatively owned by Indian newspapers, earlier reported that at least four bodies had been recovered from the crash site.
Rawat was appointed India’s Chief of Defense Staff in December 2019. Prior to that, he was the Chief of Army Staff.
During a career spanning more than 40 years, Rawat commanded several battalions for the Indian army.
He had received several awards for his service. He was first commissioned into the Indian Army in December 1978.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted of his deep anguish at the news of the 13 deaths.
They served India with utmost diligence. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. Gen Bipin Rawat was an outstanding soldier. A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus. His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional. His passing away has saddened me deeply.
India’s Defense Minister, Rajnath Singh and Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane visited Rawat’s residence in New Delhi before his death was confirmed.
Singh later tweeted to express his condolences, saying his heart went out to the families of those killed and also prayed for a speedy recovery for the officer who survived the crash.
Rawat was India’s first chief of defence staff, a position that the government established in 2019, and was seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The four-star general had previously survived a helicopter crash in February 2015 when he was the III Corps commander in Dimapur, Nagaland.