Bipin Rawat's chopper crash: 13 die, one still undergoing treatment in hospital
New Delhi/Coonor: Thirteen people, out of 14 who were traveling in the Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter which was carrying Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, have died as the chopper crashed near an army training camp at the Wellington Army Centre in Tamil Nadu's Coonoor region on Wednesday afternoon, sources said.
The condition of the CDS is still not known.
One of the rescued persons is undergoing treatment in a Wellington hospital with life-threatening burn injuries (more than 85% burnt), sources said.
According to sources in the Indian Army, 14 people, including Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) Major General Bipin Rawat and his family members, were on board the Mi-series (Mi-17V5) chopper that crashed in Nilgiris.
Meanwhile, PM Narendra Modi has been briefed on the IAF chopper crash by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh.
PM Modi will chair a Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting at his residence at 6:30 pm.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, who spoke to higher officials and the Nilgiris District Collector, is air dashing to Coimbatore and will visit the crash site in the evening.
He also directed the district administration to provide the best of treatment to the injured and speed up rescue and relief works at the accident spot.
Tamil Nadu DGP C Sylendra Babu is also on his way to Coimbatore to oversee the relief and rescue operations.
A 15 member special team from Indian Army was rushed to Coonoor to speed up the relief and rescue works.
District Officials refused to divulge the condition of the rescued people, saying it would be announced by the Army officials in New Delhi.
The chopper took off at 11.47 am from Sulur and was heading to Wellington when it crashed at 12.20 am about 5-10 km and five minutes from the landing site.
Gen Rawat was scheduled to address an event at the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington when the crash took place.
Even before the police, fire service, district and revenue officials could reach the spot, villagers in the area jumped into the rescue act and made all attempts to douse the flames, which raged for more than an hour as the fuel tank was full.
District officials, along with the locals, were involved in collecting the remnants of the helicopter.
Special medical teams from Coimbatore hospitals were sent to Coonoor for providing treatment to the injured.
The Indian Air Force confirmed the accident, while officials said details were awaited about the fate of those onboard.
The CDS' wife and President of Army Wives Welfare Association Madhulika Rawat; Defence Assistant, security commandos and Indian Air Force personnel were onboard the chopper, reports UNI.
"An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter, with CDS Gen Bipin Rawat on board, met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. An Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the cause," IAF said in a statement.
Timeline of event so far:
0900 IST: CDS Bipin Rawat along with his wife and staff departed from Delhi in a special IAF aircraft (K-3602).
1135 IST: The aircraft landed at an Air Force station in Tamil Nadu's Sulur.
1145 IST: Bipin Rawat's team and five crew members of the IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter departed for Wellington.
1220 IST: The chopper crashed in Nilgiris in Coonoor, and caught fire.
1225 IST: Locals rushed to help and tried with their minimum resources to douse the flames.
Later, police, rescue workers, firefighters, disaster management personnel and army officials reached the scene to join the rescue efforts.