An Indian army Mi-17V5 helicopter carrying decorated military personnel including Chief of Defense Staff Gen Bipin Rawat crashed in the Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu on Wednesday, December 8 afternoon. A total of 14 people including Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat, a defense assistant, security commandos, and an IAF pilot were on board the chopper that crashed in a forest of Coonoor. Indian Air Force informed in a statement that Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife, and 11 other officers died in the crash.
Group Captin Varun Singh, who was also on board the chopper is the sole survivor of the crash, who is being treated for severe burn injuries at the military hospital in Wellington, NDTV reported. Gen Rawat was on a visit to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course on Wednesday. According to NDTV, the helicopter was making its descent and would have landed in 10 more minutes when it crashed.
Group Captain Varun Singh is a Shaurya Chakra awardee. according to the Hindustan Times, he was honored with the prestigious award on August 15, 2020, by President Ram Nath Kovind for saving his LCA Tejas fighter aircraft during an emergency in October 2020.
List of army personnel who died in the helicopter crash
Visuals from the scene showed rescue officials pulling the charred bodies from the crashed chopper amidst thick smoke and fire. The army officials who succumbed to the severe burns sustained in the crash were identified as Brig LS Lidder, Lt Col Harjinder Singh, NK Gursewak Singh, NK Jitendra Kumar, Vivek Kumar, B Sai Teja, Hav Satpal, and four crew members whose identities are not known at the moment.
The Times of India reported that the Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopter took off from Sulur air force station around 11:50 am on Wednesday and crashed somewhere within the next 30 minutes falling into a jungle close to a tribal settlement near Kattery, around 7 km from Coonoor and 10 km from the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington. Initial reports suggest that bad weather might be a major cause of the accident.
Gen Bipin Rawat
General Rawat, 63, was appointed as India's first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in January 2019. The Chief of Defence Staff is the Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and is the main military adviser to the Defence Minister and the political leadership.