India’s foremost military officer Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat died on Wednesday after an Air Force chopper carrying him crashed in Tamil Nadu, media reports said today. 12 other persons traveling with him also didn’t survive.
According to NDTV reports, the crash took place shortly after the Russian-made Mi-17 V5 chopper took off from the Air Force base in Sulur, Coimbatore, for Wellington in the Nilgiri Hills.
The helicopter was already making its descent and would have landed in 10 more minutes. It came down around 10 km from the nearest road, forcing emergency workers to trek to the accident site, said news agency AFP.
TV footages showed wreckage scattered on a hillside and rescuers struggling through thick smoke and fire to locate bodies. Charred bodies were pulled out by locals and cops from under mangled metal and fallen trees.
General Rawat, 63, took charge as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff in January 2019. The position was set up with the aim of integrating the three services – the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.
A former Army Chief, General Rawat was also appointed the head of the newly-created Department of Military Affairs.
Many former army chiefs expressed grief; they described the Mi-17 double engine chopper as a very stable aircraft used for VVIP flights.