Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat passed away in a helicopter crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu, according to the confirmation given by the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the evening of Wednesday, December 8. According to the reports, he was among the 14 people who were on board, which included his wife and staff members too. Thirteen people faced this devastating helicopter crash, which included CDS Bipin Rawat, Madhulika Rawat, and 11 others who were on board.
“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 tweeted at 6:03 pm.
“Around noon today, an IAF Mi 17 V5 helicopter with a crew of 4 members carrying the CDS and 9 other passengers met with a tragic accident near Coonoor, TN,” the IAF added.
The only survivor of the group is Group Captain Varun Singh, directing staff at Defense Services Staff College (DSSC), and currently, he is being treated for his injuries at the Military Hospital in Wellington, the IAF said.
General Rawat was the nation’s first CDS, assuming office on January 1, 2020. Earlier, he was the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee in the period between September 27, 2019, and December 31, 2019. He was also the Chief of Army Staff between December 31, 2016, and December 31, 2019.
The IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter was on its way from Sulur in Coimbatore to DSSC located in Wellington where General Rawat, and also the Chief of Army Staff M.M. Naravane was scheduled to participate in an event. According to the reports, the helicopter crashed in the forest area because of the poor visibility following heavy fog.
At 1:53 pm on Wednesday, the Indian Air Force confirmed this shocking news in a tweet that CDS Rawat was on board the helicopter and also shared that an inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the reason of the accident. However, there was no official information on injuries or a death toll from the crash until after 6 pm.
A list of passengers and crew members of the helicopter from Delhi to Sulur which was being shared widely on all social media platforms names General Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat, Brigadier L.S. Lidder (defense assistant to the CDS), Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh (special officer to the CDS), PSOs Naik Gursewak Singh, Naik Jitendra Kumar, Lieutenant Naik Vivek Kumar, Lieutenant Naik B. Sai Teja, and Havildar Satpal. But, the names doing the rounds on social media are not of the chopper that was in the crash as there has been no confirmation that all the persons who are included in it were in the chopper which faced the accident.
TV visuals showed the badly damaged chopper in flames, possibly under the impact of the crash. And maybe, a major tragedy was averted as the helicopter fell some distance away from human habitation, averting more casualties.