A tri-service inquiry has been ordered into yesterday’s crash of an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu in which Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika and eleven other military personnel were killed, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced today.
Making a statement in Parliament, he said the inquiry would be headed by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Training Command.
Rajnath said Gen Rawat would be cremated with full military honours.
Group Captain Varun Singh, the sole survivor in the crash, was on life support at the Military Hospital in Wellington and all efforts were being made to save his life, the minister said.
Rajnath said Gen Rawat was on a scheduled visit to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington to interact with students.
The IAF’s Mi 17 V 5 helicopter took off from Sulur Airbase at 1148 hrs and was expected to land at Wellington at 1215 hrs.
The Air Traffic Control at Sulur lost touch with the helicopter at 1208 hrs. Subsequently, some locals spotted a fire in the forest near Coonoor and rushed to the spot where they observed the wreckage of the military helicopter engulfed in flames. Rescue teams in the vicinity reached the site and attempted to recover the survivors from the crash site.
Soon after the incident, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari visited the crash site and Wellington hospital and reviewed the situation.