Mi17 V5 Chopper Crash: CDS Gen Bipin Rawat, his Wife and 11 Other Personnel Killed in Tragic Accident

Top Stories

By Sri Krishna

New Delhi: In a major setback to Indian armed forces, the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff Defence (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and wife Madhulika met a tragic end as their helicopter “met with an accident near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu.”

The 63 year old General who was appointed CDS on January 1, 2020 headed the newly set up Department of Military Affairs (DMA) and was one of the key players for a Joint Command comprising of the three armed forces.

“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,” the Indian Air Force (IAF) tweeted. “The person being treated at the military hospital in Wellington is “Group Captain Varun Singh”, said the Air Force. He was rescued from the crashed site with 80% burns and is battling for life.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted “Gen Bipin Rawat was an outstanding soldier, he greatly contributed to modernizing our armed forces and security apparatus. His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional. His passing away has saddened me deeply.”

“I am deeply anguished by the helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu in which we have lost Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and other personnel of Armed Forces. They saved India with utmost diligence. My thoughts are with the bereaved families,” Prime Minister tweeted.

The helicopter crashed shortly after it took off from the Air Force base in Sulur at 11.45 am, Coimbatore, for Wellington in the Nilgiri Hills. It was making its descent and would have landed in 10 more minutes when it came down, barely 10 km from a road. The Air Force has ordered an inquiry into what happened.

The General was heading to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington to address the faculty and students.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, briefed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, called a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) at his residence. The Defence Minister and Army Chief MM Naravane visited General Rawat’s home in Delhi long before the official announcement.

The Defence Minister called General Rawat’s death an “irreparable loss” to the country and the forces.

The Chief of Defence Staff is the Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and   the main military adviser to the Defence Minister besides giving impartial advice to the political leadership.

The general joined the army as a second lieutenant in 1978 and had four decades of service behind him, having commanded forces in Jammu and Kashmir and along the Line of Actual Control bordering China.

Condolences poured in for General Rawat and the other deceased, with Union home minister Amit Shah saying, “A very sad day for the nation as we have lost our CDS, General Bipin Rawat Ji in a very tragic accident. He was one of the bravest soldiers, who has served the motherland with utmost devotion. His exemplary contributions & commitment cannot be put into words. I am deeply pained.”

Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari said “India will always remain grateful to CDS Gen Bipin Rawat for his impeccable service to the nation at the most crucial moments”.

Top Congress leader Rahul Gandhi described the accident as an “unprecedented tragedy”.

Many former army chiefs expressed grief; they described the Mi-17 double engine chopper as a very stable aircraft used for VVIP flights.