General Bipin Rawat, India’s Chief of Defence Staff, his wife madhulika Rawat and 11 others have been killed in the chopper crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu. General Rawat was 63.
Indian Air Force confirmed the news on Twitter and said, "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."
They also wrote, "Gp Capt Varun Singh SC, Directing Staff at DSSC with injuries is currently under treatment at Military Hospital, Wellington."
IAF informed that Gen Rawat was on a visit to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course today.
TV visuals showed the badly damaged chopper in flames, possibly under the impact of the crash. Apparently, a major tragedy was averted as the helicopter fell at some distance away from a human habitation, averting possible mass casualties.
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. What seemed to be some charred bodies were also seen lying around.
The mangled and burnt remains of the ill-fated IAF chopper were strewn along the site, even as rescue services personnel were seen carrying bodies in stretchers to be transported through waiting ambulances.
The accident site remained out of bounds for civilians. Local eyewitnesses told a Tamil TV channel they could hear a loud noise, apparently of the crash, and later saw the chopper on fire, with some of the occupants suffering serious burn injuries.
Rawat was on his way to the Defence Staff College in Wellington.
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
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 sources added.
The chopper crashed in the forest area, reportedly due to poor visibility following heavy fog.
(With inputs from agencies)