In one of the most tragic incidents in the history of Indian military hierarchy, a Mi17V5 military transport helicopter crashed in the jungles of Tamil Nadu near Coonoor on Wednesday, killing 13 of the 14 souls aboard. Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat, and 11 other personnel were on board.
The Indian Air Force said, “Gen Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was on a visit to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course today.” According to the latest updates, the last rites of General Rawat will be performed in New Delhi.
Among the 14 members on board, only one survived. That survivor was identified as Indian Air Force Group Captain Varun Singh, who is currently undergoing medical treatment.
The 13 deceased victims include four chopper crew personnel, eight military officers, and Madhulika Rawat, the only civilian on board. Madhulika Rawat was declared dead on the scene with several other victims. The rest of the crew were rescued and taken to Wellington hospital for treatment. Gen. Rawat later succumbed to his grave injuries and burns.
The confirmation of Gen. Rawat’s demise came from the Indian Air Force. “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 Indian Air Force (IAF) said in the statement on Twitter.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held the chair for Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting at 6:30 p.m. local time, hours after the Coonoor helicopter tragedy, to escalate an investigation into the incident.
Meanwhile, Army Chief General MM Naravane briefed Defense Minister Rajnath Singh of the crash. The Defense Minister visited CDS Bipin Rawat’s residence to brief the family of the tragedy.
The entire military and defense establishment of India was shocked by the news. Condolences and tributes came from all over the world to recognize the loss of India’s first CDS and a stalwart of the Indian Army.
General Bipin Laxman Singh Rawat, PVSM UYSM AVSM YSM SM VSM ADC, was former Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) and was currently serving as Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) since 2019. He had served the Indian Army since 1978 spanning almost of four-decade of service to the Indian Armed Forces.