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India's Top Military Official Dies in Helicopter Crash Alongside Wife and 11 Others

·3-min read
General Bipin Rawat with wife Madhulika Rawat
General Bipin Rawat with wife Madhulika Rawat

Raajessh Kashyap/Hindustan Times via Getty Gen. Bipin Rawat with wife Madhulika Rawat

India's top military official, Gen. Bipin Rawat, died in a helicopter crash on Wednesday alongside his wife and 11 others. One person on board survived and has been hospitalized for their injuries.

An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter carrying 14 people — including Rawat, the country's Chief of Defense Staff — "met with a tragic accident" and crashed in southern India around noon local time, according to the Indian Air Force.

At the time of the crash, they were traveling for a lecture at a military college in Wellington, located in the state of Tamil Nadu, the IAF shared.

"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 IAF wrote, identifying the other victims as "Service personnel."

helicopter crash
helicopter crash

AFP via Getty Firemen and rescue workers at scene of IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter crash in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu

The type of Russian-made helicopter involved in the crash is widely used among army personnel and government ministers in India, according to NBC News.

The IAF has ordered an inquiry to determine the cause of the crash, which is not yet known.

The sole survivor has been identified as Group Capt. Varun Singh, who is undergoing treatment for his injuries at a military hospital in Wellington, per the IAF. The extent of his injuries is not currently known.

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helicopter crash
helicopter crash

AFP via Getty Rescue operations near site of helicopter crash in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu

Rawat, who began his career in the Indian Army in 1978, was appointed India's first Chief of Defense Staff in December 2019, per CNN. Before that, he served as Chief of Army Staff.

The most senior official in the Indian military, Rawat, 63, helped modernize the country's armed forces, according to CNBC.

He also survived a previous helicopter crash in 2015, the outlet reported.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote that he was "deeply anguished by the helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu in which we have lost Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and other personnel of the Armed Forces."

The prime minister went on to call Rawat a "true patriot," adding that "India will never forget his exceptional service."

Bipin Rawat
Bipin Rawat

Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Gen. Bipin Rawat

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India's Defense Minister Rajnath Singh also shared a tribute following the tragic crash.

"Deeply anguished by the sudden demise of Chief of Defense Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other Armed Forces personnel in an extremely unfortunate helicopter accident today in Tamil Nadu. His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country," he wrote on Twitter.

"My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their loved ones in this accident," he continued, adding that he was also "praying for the speedy recovery of Gp Capt Varun Singh."

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