When an Army official in severe distress asked for "some water," from him, A Sivakumar had no idea the man was the country's top soldier and its first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, who would possibly later succumb to injuries sustained in a helicopter crash in the vicinity.
Sivakumar, a social worker, was among the first respondents who reached the accident site where the Mi-17V5 carrying the late CDS, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 12 others crashed on Wednesday, killing 13 of them, including the General while there is a lone survivor.
A "trained first respondent," Sivakumar said he rushed to the spot following a phone call from a relative even as the copter was in flames, making it "clear we cannot save everyone."
Three of them had jumped out of the burning helicopter and those in the area were scampering to find resources to save the injured, Sivakumar said, adding, they managed to rescue them one by one and take them to the ambulance.
"We saw three of them were alive. We used blankets and other available material to move them even as a police inspector came... as we were engaged in trying to shift them from there, I told the second person to remain calm and relaxed as we rescuers had arrived. He then asked me "some water please." But I realised that by the time I could oblige his request, we could as well move him," to safety, Sivakumar told PTI.
The third person could hear what the rescuers spoke but could not respond, he added.
Later, an Army officer showed a picture of Rawat to Sivakumar and revealed who he was.
"I was upset I could not give water immediately to such a high ranking person of the country," Sivakumar said, adding, all of Rawat's belongings were later retrieved.
Sivakumar said police and defence officials have already held enquiries with him.