India’s Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and 12 others, including his wife, have been killed in a helicopter crash in the southern state of Tamil Nadu – during an incident which left only one survivor.
At the crash site, K Ramachandran, the Forest Minister of Tamil Nadu, said: “Out of 14 people on board, seven bodies have been recovered so far, the situation of two are critical. Rescue operations are under way.”
The dead include the general’s wife, Madhulika Rawat, and four crew members of the Mi-17V5 helicopter, the Air Force said on Twitter.
One person is receiving treatment at Military Hospital in Wellington, the Air Force added.
News channels have been running videos from the crash site of the burning remains of the helicopter.
The chopper took off from the Sulur Army base at 11.40am on Wednesday and crashed within 30 minutes of its flight into a gorge in the jungle close to Coonoor.
General Rawat was due to give a speech at the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington.
He took office on 1 January 2020 as the first incumbent of the Chief of Defence Services (CDS) – the country’s highest ranking military officer.
The CDS is the military head and Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Committee of the Indian Armed Forces.
Crash site is in a forested area
Preliminary reports suggest that the weather was bad in Coonoor.
The crash site is in a forested area which makes rescue operations difficult.
The last major crash involving a very senior Indian military officer was in 1993 near the Bhutan border.
The Defence Minister is due to brief parliament with more details of the incident.