UA helicopter carrying the Chief of the Indian Military Staff, General Bipin Rawat, crashed in the southern state of Tamil Nadu on Wednesday (December 8th). The provisional death toll has grown, with at least seven dead among the passengers.The Russian Indian Air Force (IAF) Mi-17V5 helicopter crashed near Coonoor in the south of the country. An investigation has been ordered to determine the cause of the accident.
General Rawat and his wife were on board the aircraft with other officers on their way to the Defense Services Staff College, a defense training institution. At 10:25 a.m. GMT, the general’s fate was still uncertain. Videos broadcast on Indian news channels showed the wreckage of the device ignited at the crash site, in a dense forest area near their destination in Nilgiris district. The aircraft crashed about 10 kilometers from the nearest road, forcing rescuers to walk to the crash site.
About twenty firefighters on site
Images from the site show a crowd struggling to put out the blaze with buckets of water as a group of soldiers transport one of the passengers on an improvised stretcher. “There are three or four injured at the crash site, but we don’t know the identity of the dead,” said a Coonoor fire official. Some of the injured were taken to hospital. About twenty fire-fighting vehicles are on site to extinguish a fire.
Considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, General Bipin Rawat, 63, is India’s first chief of staff, a post created by the Indian government in 2019. Coming from a military family including several generations served in the Indian armed forces, the general joined the army as a second lieutenant in 1978. In four decades of service he commanded the armed forces in India administered Kashmir and those posted on along the line of control that separates it from China.
He is India’s bravest Army officer who is serving the nation since over 40 years & we need him
– Danasari Anasuya (Seethakka) (@seethakkaMLA) December 8, 2021
A helicopter involved in a number of accidents
The Russian Mi-17 helicopter, which entered service in the 1970s and used by armies around the world, has been involved in a number of accidents over the years. An Azerbaijani Army Mi-17 helicopter crashed during a training flight last month. Fourteen people died in the accident. In 2019, four Indonesian soldiers were killed and five others injured in central Java in another training accident involving this device.