KATHMANDU, Dec 8: India's Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 staff members died in a tragic army chopper crash near coonoor in Tami Nadu, confirmed Indian Air Force (IAF) on Wednesday evening.
General Rawat and his wife among 14 people who were onboard the ill-fated helicopter that crashed on Wednesday noon. While 13 persons including General Rawat has been confirmed dead, Captain Varun Singh, directing staff at Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), is currently undergoing treatment at Military Hospital in Wellington, according to the IAF.
“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,” the IAF tweeted at 6:03 pm.
“Around noon today, an IAF Mi 17 V5 helicopter with a crew of 4 members carrying the CDS and 9 other passengers met with a tragic accident near Coonoor, TN,” the IAF added.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said General Rawat was an outstanding soldier. "A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus. His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional. His passing away has saddened me deeply. Om Shanti,” he 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,”he further wrote.
“Gen Bipin Rawat was an outstanding soldier. “As India’s first CDS, Gen Rawat worked on diverse aspects relating to our armed forces including defence reforms. He brought with him a rich experience of serving in the Army. India will never forget his exceptional service.”
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said he was deeply anguished by the sudden demise of CDS Rawat and the 12 others. “His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country,” he said.
General Rawat was India’s first CDS, assuming office on January 1, 2020. Previously, he was the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee between September 27, 2019 and December 31, 2019, and the Chief of Army Staff between December 31, 2016 and December 31, 2019.
The IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter was on its way from Sulur in Coimbatore to DSSC in Wellington where General Rawat, along with Chief of Army Staff M.M. Naravane, was slated to participate in an event. The chopper crashed in the forest area reportedly due to poor visibility following heavy fog, an Indian media outlet, The Wire, reported.