The initial report of helicopter crash carrying CDS Bipin Rawat
India was stunned on Wednesday when first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, his wife, and 11 other military personnel were killed after the helicopter carrying them crashed in Tamil Nadu. Rescue teams managed to bring out one passenger alive and he is undergoing treatment at the military hospital. There were 14 people traveling in the ill-fated MI-75 IAF helicopter. The initial assessment is helicopter crashed in apparently foggy conditions after colliding with jackfruit trees.
Giving details of the crash on Wednesday, senior officials said here Rawat, his wife Madhulika, his staff including security personnel, and the crew were killed when the helicopter crashed in Coonoor near noontime. Group Captain P Chauhan was the commander of the helicopter. He was killed along with Brigadier L Lidder and Lt Colonel Harinder Singh (both serving in the CDS staff office) and five security personnel. The rescue team retrieved all 14 passengers from the helicopter.
The CDS Bipin Rawat was en route to Defence Service Staff College (DSSC), Wellington to deliver a lecture later in the afternoon. He landed at Sulur airbase near Coimbatore at about 11:30 am after flying from New Delhi. The MI-75 took off from there for Wellington at about 11.45 am and it is feared the helicopter burst into flames shortly before it was to land at Wellington helipad. The flying time between Sulur and Wellington is about 40 minutes.
Group Captain Varun Singh, Directing Staff at the DSSC and the sole survivor, was undergoing treatment for injuries at the Miltary Hospital, Wellington, IAF added. He was recently awarded Shaurya Chakra, the second-highest peacetime gallantry, for saving his Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) during an aerial emergency last year.
Survived by two daughters, Rawat will be cremated with full military and state honors on Thursday. IAF chief V R Chaudhari, who rushed to Conoor, where the mishap took place, will accompany the body of the CDS and his wife to the national capital. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the implications of the tragic event.
Following the mishap, the mandatory court of inquiry was ordered and an Air Marshal will head the probe to ascertain the cause. Incidentally, Rawat had survived a helicopter crash on February 3, 2015, in Dimapur, Nagaland when the Cheetah helicopter met a mishap. He was a Lt General at that time.
Elaborating upon the site of the mishap, officials said the helipad at Wellington is located in a bowl or valley surrounded by hills. Moreover, at this time of the year, cloud cover and rains pose a challenge for landing helicopters, said officials. However, the court of inquiry will find out the truth, they said adding the black box or data recorder of the helicopter was recovered. Moreover, the survivor pilot will be able to help the investigators to pinpoint the causes leading to the tragedy. They also said nearly all the victims suffered serious burn injuries after the helicopter crashed near a hilltop before it was to land five minutes later.
Initially, villagers nearby carried out the rescue efforts by trying to douse the strong flames as the nearest road head is nearly three kilometers away. In fact, all the passengers had to be carried up to the road head in makeshift stretchers and then rushed to the military hospital at Wellington. Officials said the DNA was carried out to correctly establish the identity of the victims before going public.
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