The ill-fated IAF Mi 17V5 helicopter carrying Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and others , hit a tree before crashing and going up in flames, according to an eyewitness account.
Residents of Nanjappan Sathiram in Kattery, where the crash took place, were in a state of disbelief over what they had initially seen.
P. Krishnasamy, a local resident, said that he was at home when he heard the loud sound of helicopter blades. “I ran out and saw the chopper climb steeply from the valley below before it clipped a tree and crashed,” he said.
Mr. Krishnasamy said that he saw people exit from the chopper on fire, screaming for help. “As the fire was too large, we couldn’t approach the wreckage,” he said.
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P. Chandrakumar, who was only among a handful of people in the village at the time the incident occurred, said that he had initially thought that an LPG cylinder had exploded, such was the severity of the explosion.
He said that helicopters heading to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington usually fly over the settlement, but that there was heavy cloud cover when the accident occurred.
“The chopper also narrowly missed crashing into a house nearby, or into the settlement. The death toll [on the ground] could have been much higher if it had crashed into our houses,” said another resident.
Local residents rushed to the nearest area with mobile reception to call the police and the Fire Department.