India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and eleven other military personnel were killed on Wednesday when an Indian Air Force military helicopter carrying them crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.
Gen Rawat was on his way from Sulur IAF base in Coimbatore to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course when the chopper crashed.
Group Captain Varun Singh, who was in Gen Rawat’s staff, was the only survivor in the crash. He suffered serious injuries and is currently under treatment at Military Hospital in Wellington.
”With deep regret, it has been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident (crash),” the IAF tweeted. An Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident.
”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 announced earlier in the day. The chopper was a few minutes away from landing when it hit a tree, crashed, and caught fire, resulting in several casualties.
”Deeply anguished by the sudden demise of Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other Armed Forces personnel in an extremely unfortunate helicopter accident today in Tamil Nadu,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted.
As soon as the news about the crash came, Rajnath convened a high-level meeting and also briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the incident. He also visited the residence of Gen Rawat to convey his condolences to the bereaved family.
President Ram Nath Kovind, the supreme commander of the armed forces, said he was shocked and anguished over the untimely demise of Gen Rawat and his wife. The nation has lost one of its bravest sons. His four decades of selfless service to the motherland was marked by exceptional gallantry and heroism. He also joined the fellow citizens in paying tributes to others who died in the crash while performing their duty.
In a series of tweets, Prime Minister Modi said, “I am deeply anguished by the helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu in which we have lost Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and other personnel of the armed forces. They served India with utmost diligence. My thoughts are with the bereaved families.”
Gen Rawat, the PM said, was an outstanding soldier. A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising the armed forces and security apparatus. His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional. The Prime Minister also held a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
The Defence Minister said Gen Rawat’s untimely death was an irreparable loss to the armed forces and the country.
Belonging to a family of military officers and one of the most decorated soldiers, Gen Rawat took over as the CDS on January 1, 2020 – the first to occupy the post that made him the country’s senior most military officer.
As CDS, he was above the other four-star military officers heading the Navy, Air Force and Army and also headed the Department of Military Affairs in the Defence Ministry.