COONOOR (TN): Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 others were on Wednesday killed as an IAF chopper carrying them crashed in Tamil Nadu.
The pilot of the ill-fated helicopter MI-17V5 was the lone survivor among the 14 people on board the chopper that crashed in a valley of Coonoor after hitting trees at around noon, Indian Air Force and local officials said.
Gen Rawat, the 63-year-old first CDS of the country, was on a visit to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course today, the IAF spokesman said.
"Around noon today (Wednesday), an IAF Mi 17 V5 helicopter with a crew of 4 members carrying the CDS and 9 other passengers met with a tragic accident near Coonoor, TN," the spokesman said.
"With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident," the IAF spokesman said, confirming the fears that lingered through the afternoon after the crash.
Gp Capt Varun Singh SC, Directing Staff at DSSC with injuries is currently under treatment at Military Hospital, Wellington, he said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while condoling the demise, said it was an "irreparable loss" to the armed forces and the country.
"Deeply anguished by the sudden demise of Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other Armed Forces personnel in an extremely unfortunate helicopter accident today in Tamil Nadu," Singh tweeted. "His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country," he added.