Hyderabad: India's first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, his wife, and 11 others were killed when an IAF helicopter crashed near Coonoor in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu on Wednesday.
"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," tweeted Indian Air Force.
CDS Bipin Rawat was en route to give a lecture at Defence Service Staff College in Wellington at 2:45 pm.
While a court of inquiry has been ordered, the government is likely to make a statement in Parliament on Thursday on the crash of the IAF's Mi-17V5 helicopter carrying CDS Rawat, his wife, and other military personnel.
The aircraft was on its way from Sulur IAF base in Coimbatore to Defence Staff College in Wellington.
Earlier Defence minister Rajanath Singh briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the crash. Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari also rushed to the crash site. Bodies recovered from the site of the chopper crash were taken to Military Hospital, Wellington.
Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin expressed shock at the incident. He instructed the local administration to provide all the help needed in rescue operations. He is also slated to reach the site of the crash.
Earlier, Tamil Nadu Forest Minister K Ramachandran informed that five people on board the chopper have died. "I have reached here (chopper crash site) on the instructions of the Chief Minister. Out of the 14 people on board, five people have died and the situation of two others is critical. Rescue operation is underway," Ramachandran said.
Indian Air Force has issued a list of names of General Rawat's staff who were also on-board the crashed chopper. Apart from CDS General Rawat and his wife Madhulika Rawat, Brigadier LS Lidder, Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh, Naik Gursewak Singh, Naik Jitendra Kumar, Lance NaikVivek Kumar, L/NK B Sai Teja, and Hav Satpal are among those on board the aircraft. The IAF has ordered an inquiry into the accident.
A veteran of counterinsurgency warfare, CDS Rawat served in the most difficult terrains including northern and eastern commands. CDS Rawat was commissioned into the Indian Army in December 1978. He previously served as Chief of the Army Staff from January 2017 to December 2019.