General Bipin Rawat, India’s Chief of
Defence Staff, was killed in a helicopter crash near Tamil Nadu’s Coonoor on
Wednesday. The helicopter, a Mi-17V5, was piloted by Wing Commander Prithvi
Singh Chauhan. Thirteen out of the 14 people on board died in the accident.
Prithvi Singh Chauhan was the 109 Helicopter Unit’s commandant.
When the helicopter crashed, massive
flames emanated from the chopper and people rushed in for rescue operations.
While 13 people died, Group Captain Varun Singh is the sole survivor of the helicopter crash. Until last information, Singh was being treated at the military hospital in Wellington.
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Tributes poured in from all across the country after news of General Bipin Rawat’s death. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter, “His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country.”
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted: “Deeply anguished by the sudden demise of Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other Armed Forces personnel in an extremely unfortunate helicopter accident today in Tamil Nadu. His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country.”
General Bipin Rawat was the first Chief of Defence Staff of India, a post created to ensure greater coordination between the army, air force and navy. General Rawat’s wife Madhulika Rawat also died in the crash.
General Rawat is scheduled to be cremated in Delhi Cantonment on Friday. The bodies will arrive in New Delhi in a military plane Thursday evening.
Bipin Rawat, 63, left for a Defence Services Staff College in Wellington, Udhagamandalam at around 11:45 am on Wednesday morning. At noon, the Mi-17V-5 helicopter crashed near Coonoor, 14 kilometers from its destination. The crash was reported around 12:20 pm. The crash took place in a forested area, which made access to the site difficult. Photographs emerged showing pieces of the helicopter, on fire, scattered on the hillside and rescuers at work, struggling through thick smoke and fire.