Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 others were killed in a helicopter crash near Coonoor on December 8, the Indian Air Force said. The copter carrying Gen. Rawat and his entourage crashed in apparently foggy conditions, killing the 13 people on board, the IAF and other officials said. One person survived the crash and is being treated at a hospital.
Group Captain Varun Singh SC, Directing Staff at DSSC and the sole survivor, was undergoing treatment for injuries at the Miltary Hospital, Wellington, the IAF said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will make a statement on T.N. Helicopter tragedy in both Houses of of Parliament on December 9.
The Hindu Explains | What we know about the Mi-17 helicopter
The Mi-17V-5 supplied to India are among the most technically advanced helicopters of the Mi-8/17 type. These helicopters are equipped with modern powerful engines.
- Dinakar Peri
Condolences pour in for Gen. Bipin Rawat
President of India Ram Nath Kovind tweeted: “I am shocked and anguished over the untimely demise of Gen. Bipin Rawat and his wife, Madhulika ji. The nation has lost one of its bravest sons. His four decades of selfless service to the motherland was marked by exceptional gallantry and heroism. My condolences to his family.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “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.”
Army Chief Gen MM Naravane and all ranks of the force paid heartfelt condolences on the untimely demise of Gen Rawat, his wife and 11 others.
"The dynamic and inspiring leadership of General Bipin Rawat shall remain eternally etched in our memories. The #IndianArmedForces will forever remain indebted to his invaluable contributions," the army tweeted.
Gen. Bipin Rawat dead: IAF
The Indian Air Force tweeted: "With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen. Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident."
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."
IAF chopper crash: State government providing a supporting role, says health secretary
Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan said the State government was playing only a supportive role in the rescue operations in the helicopter crash in Nilgiris.
At a press conference, Mr. Radhakrishnan said eight ‘108’ ambulances had reached the accident spot over a period of time and that the Army personnel were at the forefront of the rescue operations. Many of the passengers had severe burns and the Army took them to the Army hospital, he said.
Refusing to go into the details of those who had lost their lives in the incident, Mr. Radhakrishnan said it was for the Defence Ministry to announce the details. “The Chief of Defence Staff is a very high, respectable post. Only the Defence Ministry will make any announcement,” he said.
The tragic helicopter crash in the Nilgris is another addition to the long list of fatal accidents involving VVIPs. This malasise is not confined only to India. The MI-17 has very powerful engines and the downwash can be quite strong.
13 personnel confirmed dead
Thirteen of the 14 occupants of the IAF helicopter killed, one survivor, a male, says Nilgiris Collector.
Gen. Rawat was scheduled to deliver a talk
An IAF Embraer aircraft with Gen. Rawat took off from Palam air base at 0847 a.m. and landed at Sulur air base at 1134 a.m. From there he took off in a Mi-17V5 chopper around 1148 a.m. for Wellington and the missing report of the chopper came in at 1222 p.m.
The helicopter crashed about 10 kms short of destination. He was scheduled to deliver a talk at Defence Services Staff College, Wellington.
- Dinaker Peri
Army takes control of the crash site.
- Soundariya Preetha
Hospital team leaves for Wellington
A six member team from the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital (CMCH) left for Wellington on Wednesday afternoon to assist the medical team in the army hospital there, which is treating those rescued from the IAF chopper crash site.
CMCH Dean A. Nirmala said that a team comprising surgeons and physicians left for the Nilgiris with a police escort.
Ten beds each have been kept standby at CMCH and the Government Medical College and ESI Hospital, Coimbatore.
- Wilson Thomas
Rajnath likely to speak in parliament tomorrow
Army Chief Gen MM Naravane is presently briefing Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at South Block. Mr Singh is likely to give a statement in the Parliament tomorrow.
Stalin to rush to Coonoor
TN Chief Minister MK Stalin tweeted, "I am deeply shocked & disheartened on hearing the army chopper with CDS General Bipin Rawat and 13 others has met with an accident near Coonoor.
"I've instructed the local administration to provide all the help needed in rescue operations even as I'm rushing to the spot."
Mr. Stalin will fly by a chartered flight at 4.45 p.m.
Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai : "I am deeply pained to hear the Army helicopter carrying the Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat meeting with an accident. I am trying to get more information," Bommai told reporters in Bengaluru. "This is the most unfortunate incident. The nation is in a state of shock," he added. ( PTI )
4 people rescued
Four persons on board the IAF Mi-17 V5 helicopter have been rescued so far, Nilgiris Superintendent of Police Ashish Rawat confirmed. However, they had sustained severe burn injuries.
Confirming the rescue operation, Nilgiris Superintendent of Police Ashish Rawat told The Hindu that the four persons, who were rescued, have been admitted to the Ooty Government Hospital.
- Rohan Premkumar
Eyewitnesses near the crash site said they rushed out on hearing a loud sound in the afternoon. P. Krishnasamy, a resident of Najappan Sathiram in Kattery, Coonoor, said that he was at home when he heard the loud sounds of the helicopter blades.
“I ran out and saw the chopper climb steep from the valley below, before it clipped a tree and crashed,” he said.
Mr. Krishnasamy said that he saw people exit from the burning chopper, screaming for help. “As the fire was too big, we couldn’t approach [the site],” he said.
Another resident, P. Chandrakumar, 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.
- Coimbatore bureau
Rajnath briefs PM Modi about crash
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is monitoring the situation and a meeting of senior Defence Ministry officials is on. He has briefed PM Narendra Modi about the crash. He isn’t visiting the spot, according to official sources.
Mr Singh has asked the Air Force chief to visit the site, a defence source said.
Tamil Nadu CM M.K. Stalin will go to Coonoor on Wednesday evening in the wake of the helicopter crash. Mr. Stalin will fly by a chartered flight at 4.45 p.m.
“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,” the IAF tweeted.
The helicopter which took off from Sulur air base, where they had a brief halt, was on its way to Defence Services Staff College in Wellington with 14 people onboard including some of his staff, it has been learnt.
The helicopter caught fire on impact on the ground and search and rescue efforts were immediately launched.
"Hoping for the safety of CDS General Bipin Rawat, his wife and others onboard the chopper. Prayers for speedy recovery," tweeted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.