Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat died in an IAF aircraft crash that took place on Wednesday near Coonoor in the Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu, Indian Air Force (IAF) confirmed on Twitter. Officials have confirmed death of 13 out of 14 passengers so far.
General Bipin Rawat's wife Madhulika Rawat also died in the helicopter crash.
The helicopter was flying from Sulur Airbase to Wellington. 14 personnel including 3-4 senior officials, 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.— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) December 8, 2021
According to top officials in Tamil Nadu, four have been found dead. The accident occurred happened at Nanjappanchathiram area amid heavy mist and early visuals showed the helicopter in flames.
Latest visuals from the spot (between Coimbatore and Sulur) where a military chopper crashed in Tamil Nadu. CDS Bipin Rawat, his staff and some family members were in the chopper.
(Pics Source: Locals involved in search and rescue operation) pic.twitter.com/miALr88sm1— ANI (@ANI) December 8, 2021
A team of doctors is rushing from Coimbatore to assist the military. The Indian Air Force confirmed the presence of Bipin Rawat on board the aircraft. However, no immediate information on the condition of Gen Rawat is available.
An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter, with CDS Gen Bipin Rawat on board, met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu.— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) December 8, 2021
An Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident.
The army chief was on his way to the Defence Staff College in Wellington. As per reports, including a tweet by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, the chopper was also carrying Rawat's wife.
The IAF said that a Court of Inquiry has been ordered into the accident. The officials were travelling in an Mi-17VH chopper that took off from the Sulur IAF Station in nearby Coimbatore.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ramnath Kovind, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi condole demise of CDS Bipin Rawat:
Paying rich tributes to Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was an "outstanding soldier and a true patriot".
"Gen Bipin Rawat was an outstanding soldier. A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus," Modi said in a tweet.
Gen Bipin Rawat was an outstanding soldier. A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus. His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional. His passing away has saddened me deeply. Om Shanti. pic.twitter.com/YOuQvFT7Et— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 8, 2021
President Ramnath Kovind in his condolence message said "The nation has lost one of its bravest sons".
I am shocked and anguished over the untimely demise of Gen. Bipin Rawat and his wife, Madhulika ji. 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. My condolences to his family.— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) December 8, 2021
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh expressed anguish over the demise of CDS Bipin Rawat and others in the crash.
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.
His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country.— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) December 8, 2021
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi termed CDS Bipin Rawat's death as "unprecedented tragedy".
I extend my condolences to the family of Gen Bipin Rawat and his wife.
This is an unprecedented tragedy and our thoughts are with their family in this difficult time.
Heartfelt condolences also to all others who lost their lives.
India stands united in this grief.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 8, 2021
Army condoles demise of CDS Bipin Rawat and others:
The Army in a statement said: "General MM Naravane and all ranks of the Indian Army express their deepest grief and sorrow over the untimely demise of General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defence Staff, Mrs Madhulika Rawat, President DWWA and 11 other military personnel in an unfortunate air accident today on 08 Dec".
It added: "General Bipin Rawat, India's first CDS, was a visionary who initiated far reaching reforms in the Indian military's higher defence organisation. He was instrumental in creating the foundation of India's joint theatre commands and giving impetus to the increased indigenisation of military equipment, a legacy which will be carried on and strengthened by successive generations".
"Mrs Madhulika Rawat, also the former President AWWA was an epitome of grace whose presence will be missed by everyone," it said.
It also said: "The deceased 11 military personnel accompanying the CDS and President DWWA on the way to Wellington will also be equally missed by everyone. They performed their duties as per the best traditions of the Armed Forces".
Earlier, official sources in Delhi said all the injured people on board the helicopter have been evacuated from the spot of the accident.
Meanwhile, official sources in Coimbatore said four bodies have been retrieved and three persons rescued from under the debris of the helicopter which crashed in Katteri-Nanchappanchathram area near Coonoor in the hilly Nilgiris district.
The helicopter, carrying a few senior officials, was on its way from Sulur in Coimbatore to DSC in Wellington where Rawat, along with Chief of Army Staff MM Naravane, was slated to participate in an event later.
The chopper crashed in a forest area, reportedly due to poor visibility following heavy fog, official sources said.
Union I&B Minister Anurag Thakur on Wednesday said information about the helicopter accident in Coonoor in Tamil Nadu will be shared by the ministry concerned at an appropriate time.
“The entire information about the accident that has taken place will be shared by the concerned ministry at an appropriate time,” Thakur told reporters when asked about the helicopter crash involving Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat.
The Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be briefing Parliament in the accident later. According to reports, he has already informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the incident. The Indian Air Force chief has been asked to reach the site. A meeting of senior officials of the ministry is also underway.
(With PTI inputs)