- The Indian Air Force says an inquiry is underway into the accident
NEW DELHI: India's Defence Chief Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other people were killed after a military helicopter they were travelling in crashed in southern India on Wednesday, the Indian Air Force said.
Rawat, 63, was appointed as India's first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in late 2019.
The accident took place around noon near the town of Coonoor, and the dead include four crew members of the Mi-17V5 helicopter, the Indian Air Force said in a tweet.
"Gen Bipin 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," the statement added.
"Group Captain Varun Singh SC [...] with injuries is currently under treatment at Military Hospital, Wellington," the tweet added.
An inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident, IAF further said.
Earlier, footage from the scene showed the helicopter in flames in a densely forested area near the college as locals tried to put out the fire.
Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa and CJCSC, General Nadeem Raza expressed condolences on the "tragic death" of CDS General Bipin Rawat, his wife and the loss of precious lives in the crash.
Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said he was "deeply shocked" at the tragic demise of CDS General Bipin Rawat and his wife. “We worked closely together in the last few years. It is a huge loss to the nation,” he said.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin said he was "deeply shocked and disheartened" after hearing about the crash. "I've instructed the local administration to provide all the help needed in rescue operations even as I'm rushing to the spot," he said in a Twitter message.