Coonoor: The Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife, and 11 others have lost their lives in a tragic helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday, the Indian Air Force has confirmed.
“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 wrote in a tweet.
An Army chopper carrying 14 persons including the CDS, his wife and senior defence officials crashed at Kattery Park, Nanjappa Chatra, Coonor in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu on Wednesday. The chopper was on its way from the Sulur IAF base to the Defence Services College (DSC) at Wellington when it crashed.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) initially said a Court of Inquiry has been ordered into the accident, involving a Mi-17VH chopper that took off from the Sulur IAF Station in nearby Coimbatore.
TV visuals showed the badly damaged chopper in flames, possibly under the impact of the crash. Apparently, a major tragedy was averted as the helicopter fell at some distance away from human habitation, averting possible mass casualties.
The accident site was a scene of despair with trees being reduced to broken pieces under the impact of the crash, flames from the chopper engulfing the wooden logs resulting in billowing smoke and personnel scurrying to douse the fire, including using buckets and water hose. What seemed to be some charred bodies were also seen lying around.
The mangled and burnt remains of the ill-fated IAF chopper were strewn along the site, even as rescue services personnel were seen carrying bodies in stretchers to be transported through waiting ambulances.
The crash was first reported around 12.20 pm. The defence establishment learnt of the incident from villagers who had informed the district administration.
(With PTI inputs)