Wednesday, December 08, 2021

India's top military chief among 13 killed in air force helicopter crash

New Delhi: India's top military official was killed Wednesday when an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter carrying 14 people crashed in southern India, the IAF confirmed, with only one survivor.

Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat died along with his wife, Madhulika Rawat, the IAF said via Twitter. He had been in the post for almost two years.

The helicopter, which had a crew of four, crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu state while en route from Sulur to the town of Wellington in Tamil Nadu, the IAF said.

The survivor, Group Capt. Varun Singh, is being treated for his injuries at the Military Hospital in Wellington, the IAF said.

The cause of the crash is not yet known. The IAF said "an inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident."

Rawat was appointed India's first Chief of Defense Staff in December 2019. Prior to that, he served as the Chief of Army Staff for close to three years.

During a career spanning more than 40 years, Rawat commanded several battalions for the Indian army. He had received several awards for his service. He was first commissioned into the Indian Army in December 1978.

A statement released by the Indian Army described Gen. Rawat as "a visionary who initiated far reaching reforms in the Indian military's higher defense organization" and his wife as "an epitome of grace whose presence will be missed by everyone."

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted of his deep anguish at the news of the 13 deaths.

"They served India with utmost diligence. My thoughts are with the bereaved families," he said. "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."

08/12/21  Swati Gupta, Vedika Sud, Laura Smith-Spark and Rhea Mogul/CNN

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