Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday evening paid last respects to Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, wife and 11 defence personnel who were killed in the Mi-17V5 helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu. He was joined by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and the three Service Chiefs at the Palam Air Base.
Earlier, the Defence Minister informed Parliament that the Indian Air Force (IAF) had ordered a tri-service inquiry headed by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Training Command, to investigate the crash.
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The mortal remains were moved by road from Wellington to Sulur around noon since the weather was not appropriate for air operations and from there were flown in an IAF C-130J transport aircraft to Delhi.
The mortal remains of Gen. Rawat will be kept at his residence on Friday morning for all to pay their last respects and will be moved to the Brar Square Crematorium around 2 p.m., Army officials said.
A defence official said the severity of air crash has led to difficulty in positive identification of mortal remains. “ All possible measures are being taken for positive identification considering the sensitivities and emotional well-being of the loved ones,” the official said.
Positive identification of only three mortal remains was possible till evening (Gen. Bipin Rawat, Madhulika Rawat and Brig. L.S. Lidder) and officials said their mortal remains will be released to the next of kin, for final rites.
Process for positive identification of the remaining mortal remains is continuing, the official said adding, the remains will be kept at the mortuary of the Army Base Hospital till the completion of positive identification formalities.
Close family members of all the deceased personnel have arrived in Delhi whose assistance would also be sought in the identification process. “Appropriate military funerals of all deceased are being planned and coordinated in close consultation with close family members,” the official added.
The Defence Minister made a statement in the Parliament on the fatal helicopter crash. “With profound grief and heavy heart, I stand to convey the unfortunate news of the crash of the military helicopter in the noon of December 8, 2021, with India’s first CDS, Gen. Bipin Rawat onboard,” he said. “The CDS would be cremated with full military honours.”
Mr. Singh said 13 of the 14 persons onboard the helicopter had succumbed to injuries. Group Captain Varun Singh is on life support in the Military Hospital at Wellington and all efforts are being made to save his life, Mr. Singh said, ending the statement by paying homage to the deceased persons and expressing condolences to the bereaved families.