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Tags: india | armed forces | chief | dead | helicopter | crash

India Armed Forces Head Among 13 Dead in Helicopter Crash

India Armed Forces Head Among 13 Dead in Helicopter Crash
A man stands next to the burning debris of an IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter crash site in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, Wednesday.  (SURYA NARAYANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Wednesday, 08 December 2021 10:39 AM

The head of India's armed forces, Gen. Bipin Rawat, was among 13 people killed on Wednesday when the military helicopter they were traveling in crashed, the air force said.

They were en route from an air force base to a hillside military college in the southern state of Tamil Nadu when the Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopter came down near the town of Coonoor.

Local television footage showed rescuers and army personnel carrying bodies up steep slopes from the mangled wreckage. Only one of the 14 people on board survived and was hospitalized with injuries.

"With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen. Bipin Rawat, [his wife] Mrs. Madhulika Rawat, and 11 other persons on board have died," the air force said in a statement.

Rawat, 63, was appointed as India's first chief of defense staff by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in late 2019. The position was set up with the aim of integrating India's three military services — the army, the navy and the air force.

Several of the bodies were badly burned, two government sources said. "Some bodies were so charred that they could not be immediately identified," one of the sources said.

Modi said he was deeply saddened by Rawat's death. "A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernizing our armed forces and security apparatus," the prime minister said.

In a tweet, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh called Rawat's death "an irreparable loss to our armed forces and the country."

The Indian air force ordered an inquiry into the cause of the accident.

India has dozens of Mi-17s in service. They are widely deployed to transport senior army personnel and government ministers.

"This is a safe, proven helicopter, I have traveled on it in difficult situations," former army chief J.J. Singh said.

An infantryman with over four decades of military service, Rawat served along India's border with China, the disputed Kashmir region and on a United Nations mission in Africa, before taking charge of the Indian army in late 2016.

In New Delhi, Defense Minister Singh visited Rawat's official residence and the state broadcaster said Modi had summoned a meeting of the cabinet committee on security on Wednesday evening.

© 2022 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


GlobalTalk
The head of India's armed forces, General Bipin Rawat, was among 13 people killed on Wednesday when the military helicopter they were traveling in crashed, the air force said.
india, armed forces, chief, dead, helicopter, crash
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2021-39-08
Wednesday, 08 December 2021 10:39 AM
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