India’s Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 other defence personnel died after a military helicopter carrying them crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday.
General Rawat was on his way to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course. The chopper crashed in the Nilgiris district.
President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were among the leaders who paid glowing tributes to Gen Rawat, the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff.
Apart from his wife, CDS Rawat was accompanied by his DA Brigadier LS Lidder and SO Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh. Others defence personnel on Indian Air Force‘s Mi 17 V5 helicopter were Wg Cdr PS Chauhan, Sqn Ldr K Singh, JWO Das, JWO Pradeep A, Hav Satpal, Nk Gursewak Singh, Nk Jitender, L/Nk Vivek and L/Nk S Teja.
Group Captain Varun Singh, SC, Directing Staff at DSSC, the sole survivor of the crash, is undergoing treatment at Military Hospital in Wellington.
Sources said the chopper crashed just minutes before reaching its destination in Tamil Nadu’s Wellington.
The chopper took off at 11:48 am from the Sulur Air Base and was reported to be missing at around 12:22 pm, they said.
The mortal remains of Gen Rawat, who was India’s highest-ranking military official, and his wife are expected to reach Delhi by Thursday evening.
Soon after the incident, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Army Chief General MM Naravane visited the residence of CDS Rawat in New Delhi. The Defence Minister also briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the incident. The Defence Minister is likely to brief the parliament on the incident on Monday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting in the evening.
In his tributes, the President 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 Kovind said in a tweet.
“It’s deeply painful for me to learn of the loss of lives in the chopper crash. I join my fellow citizens in paying tributes to each of those who died while performing their duty. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families,” he added.
The Prime Minister said CDS Gen Rawat was “an outstanding soldier” and “a true patriot” and greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus.
The Prime Minister also expressed his anguish at the death of others on board the helicopter including Gen Rawat’s wife and defence officers.
“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 the Armed Forces. They served India with utmost diligence. My thoughts are with the bereaved families,” the Prime Minister 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,” he added.
PM Modi said that as India’s first CDS, Gen Rawat worked on diverse aspects relating to the country’s armed forces including defence reforms.
“He brought with him a rich experience of serving in the Army. India will never forget his exceptional service,” the Prime Minister said.
The Indian Army said the dynamic and inspiring leadership of General Bipin Rawat “shall remain eternally etched in our memories”.
“General MM Naravane COAS & All Ranks of IndianArmy pay heartfelt condolences on the untimely demise of General Bipin Rawat CDS, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other passengers on board, in an unfortunate air crash at Coonoor,” the Army said in a tweet.
“The Indian Armed Forces will forever remain indebted to his invaluable contributions,” the Army added.
The Indian Air Force and Indian Navy also recalled the contributions of Gen Rawat, who had served as Army chief from December 31, 2016, to December 31, 2019.
He was commissioned into the Indian Army in December 1978. He took charge as Chief of Defence Staff on January, 2020.