- General Rawat, 63, took charge as India's first Chief of Defence Staff in January 2019. The position was set up with the aim of integrating the three services — the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.
NEW DELHI- A Army chopper carrying Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat and 13 others crashed shortly after take-off today in Tamil Nadu, the Indian Air Force said.
Five bodies have been found from the crash site and two persons have been taken to hospital with severe burn injuries. A search is on for seven others, NDTV reported.
The crash took place in the Nilgiris shortly after the Russian-made Mi-17 V5 chopper took off from the Air Force base in Sulur in Coimbatore for the Defence Staff Services College in Wellington.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences for General Bipin Rawat, the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff, who died this morning in a helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu’s Coonoor.
“I am deeply anguished by the helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu in which we have lost Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and other personnel of the Armed Forces. They served India with utmost diligence. My thoughts are with the bereaved families,” the Prime Minister tweeted.
“A very sad day for the nation as we have lost our CDS, General Bipin Rawat Ji in a very tragic accident. He was one of the bravest soldiers, who has served the motherland with utmost devotion. His exemplary contributions & commitment cannot be put into words. I am deeply pained,” tweeted India’s Home Minister Amit Shah
General Rawat’s wife, his Defence Assistant, security commandos and Air Force personnel were among 14 people on board, the report said.
“An IAF Mi-17 V5 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,” tweeted the Air Force.
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.
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) December 8, 2021
Visuals showed wreckage scattered on a steep hillside and rescuers at work, struggling through thick smoke and fire. Charred bodies were pulled out by locals and cops from under mangled metal and fallen trees.
General Rawat, 63, took charge as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff in January 2019. The position was set up with the aim of integrating the three services — the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The “CDS” is seen to be the pivot of long-delayed modernisation of the defence forces.
He was also appointed the head of the newly-created Department of Military Affairs.
Many former army chiefs expressed grief; they described the Mi-17 double engine chopper as a very stable aircraft used for VVIP flights.