An IAF chopper carrying Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat, his wife and 12 others crashed in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday. The IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter was airborne from Sulur for Wellington. “An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter, with CDS Gen Bipin Rawat on board, met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. An Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident,” the Indian Air Force tweeted.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the developments. According to sources, Singh will brief Parliament on the incident tomorrow. Sources said that at least three injured people from the crash have been taken to a nearby hospital, but their identities are not confirmed yet. The crash took place in the Nilgiris, shortly after the Mi-series chopper took off from the army base in Sulur.
The chopper carrying Bipin Rawat, the first Chief of Defence Staff of India, crashed near the upper Coonoor region at around 12.20 pm. Top sources in Tamil Nadu police and the Indian military facility at Coonoor said four survivors were shifted to Coonoor military hospital. “All of them had burn injuries. The first batch of six senior doctors from Coimbatore general hospital has reached Coonoor hospital,” said an army source.
The crash happened at a distance of about 10 km from the helipad where it was to land with CDS Rawat, who was to attend a cadet interaction programme today afternoon at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington.
Visuals showed the badly damaged chopper in flames, possibly under the impact of the crash. The accident site was a scene of despair with trees being reduced to broken pieces under the impact of the crash, flames from the chopper engulfing the wooden logs resulting in billowing smoke and personnel scurrying to douse the fire, including using buckets and water hose.
It is being reported that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, DGP C Sylendra Babu and Chief Secretary V Irai Anbu are taking a chartered flight to Coimbatore after 5 pm. Their travel plans from Coimbatore to Coonoor will depend on the communication from the Union defence ministry, a source said.