Wing Commander Prithvi Singh Chauhan, the pilot of the Mi17V5 IAF helicopter that crashed on Wednesday, killing Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat, and 11 other defence personnel, was supposed to return home in January, his father, 74-year-old Surendra Singh, told Hindustan Times. Prithvi, the youngest of five siblings, had spoken to Singh a few days before about an appointment at the military hospital for Prithvi’s mother, who was suffering from eye problems. His father remembered him as a caring son. 

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According to Singh, the family learned of the crash through news channels. When Prithvi’s eldest sister saw the news on TV, she dialled his phone number. The phone had been turned off. After that, she called Prithvi’s wife, Kamini, who confirmed the heartbreaking news.

Prithivi attended school in Madhya Pradesh, where the family was originally from. They moved to Agra in 2006, where Prithvi’s father opened a bakery, according to PTI. Prithvi completed his education at the Sainik School in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, and was accepted into the National Defence Academy. He joined the Indian Air Force in Hyderabad in 2000 and was now stationed at the Indian Air Force station in Coimbatore. 

Prithvi married Kamini in 2007, and the couple has a daughter (12) and a son (7).

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His father recalled the Raksha Bandhan celebrations when Prithvi was able to attend despite the fact that his eldest sister, who lives in Mumbai, was unable to do so. 

In a statement to the Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said a tri-service inquiry led by Air Marshal Manavendra Singh has already been ordered into the chopper crash. 

The cause of the fatal crash is still unclear, though many reports attribute the accident to bad weather. After expanding the search area from 300 metres to one kilometre, authorities discovered two boxes, including the flight data recorder, or black box. Officials say they will most likely be flown to Delhi or Bengaluru to determine the cause of the crash. The black box is expected to provide critical information about the events that led up to the crash.