India’s defense chief General Bipin Rawat and his wife were among 13 people killed in a helicopter crash on Wednesday, the air force said.
“With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident,” the air force said on Twitter.
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Rawat, 63, is the most senior official in the Indian military and the first chief of defense staff, a position created by the government in 2019. He is also an adviser to the Defense Ministry and handles coordination and integration of the combat capabilities of the armed forces.
Rawat previously served as chief of army staff. S.P. Amrith, a senior civil administrator of the area where the crash took place, said rescuers were able to save one male passenger, who was taken to a hospital for treatment. Amrith said the helicopter had a total of 14 people on board.
Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati said the Mi-17V5 helicopter was on its way from an air force base to the army defense services college when it crashed near the town of Coonoor, a hill station in Tamil Nadu. The reason for the crash was not immediately known.
Television images from the crash site showed plumes of smoke billowing from the debris as local residents tried to put out the fire and remove bodies from the wreckage.
The air force said in a tweet that an inquiry has been ordered into the accident.