A helicopter carrying India’s defence chief General Bipin Rawat has crashed in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the air force says.
“An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter, with CDS Gen Bipin Rawat on board, met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu,” the Indian Air Force said on Twitter on Wednesday.
The air force did not say whether Rawat, 63, was injured in the accident.
India’s public broadcaster Prasar Bharati said three injured people have been taken to a hospital.
The Press Trust of India news agency said the helicopter was on its way from an air force base to the army defence services college when it crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.
Videos broadcast on Indian news channels showed the helicopter in flames as local residents tried to douse it in a dense forested area near the college.
Rawat is India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, a position that the Indian government established in 2019, which he assumed last year after retiring as army chief. He is seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is an adviser to the defence ministry.
Rawat comes from a military family with several generations having served in the Indian armed forces.
The general, who has four decades of service behind him, has commanded forces in Indian-administered Kashmir and along the Line of Actual Control bordering China.
He is credited with reducing armed conflicts on India’s northeastern frontier and supervised a cross-border counterinsurgency operation into neighbouring Myanmar.
The Indian air force said an inquiry was underway into the accident.