India defence chief, his wife and 11 other people killed in military helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu
Wednesday 8 December 2021 8:44 PM UTC
NEW DELHI Dec 8: India’s Defence Chief Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other people were killed after a military helicopter they were travelling in crashed in southern India on Wednesday, the Indian Air Force said.
“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 air force said on Twitter.
Rawat was India’s first chief of defence staff, a position that the government established in 2019, and was seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The 63-year-old was travelling with his wife and 12 others in a Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter that “met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu”, the Indian Air Force said. An inquiry on the cause of the incident was underway.
Footage from the scene showed a crowd of people trying to extinguish the fiery wreck with water buckets while a group of soldiers carried one of the passengers away on an improvised stretcher.
Rawat was headed to the Defence Services Staff College from the nearby Sulur air force base in Coimbatore and the helicopter was already making its descent.
It came down around 10 kilometres (six miles) from the nearest road, forcing emergency workers to trek to the accident site, another fire official told AFP.
Rawat hailed from a military family with several generations having served in the Indian armed forces.
The general joined the army as a second lieutenant in 1978 and served in the armed forces for four decades. He commanded forces in Indian-administered Kashmir and along the Line of Actual Control bordering China and is credited with reducing insurgency on India’s northeastern frontier and supervised a cross-border counter-insurgency operation into neighbouring Myanmar.
Rawat was chief of the 1.3 million-strong army from 2017 to 2019 before his elevation to defence services chief.