TN AIR CRASH KILLS CDS
The Morning Standard|December 09, 2021
IAF helicopter carrying General Bipin Rawat and 13 others, including his wife, from Sulur airbase in Coimbatore to Wellington in Ooty, crashes in a tea estate; only one officer survives the accident
M SARAVANAN & PS SUNDAR

INDIA’S first Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika and 11 other defence personnel were killed on Wednesday, when the Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter they were in crashed at Katary near Coonoor in the Nilgiris.

The accident happened when Gen Rawat was headed to the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington to address faculty and student officers of the Staff Course. He was flying from the Air Force Station in Sulur, Coimbatore on a state-of-the-art Mi-17V-5 helicopter.

The sole survivor, Group Captain Varun Singh SC, directing staff at DSSC, is being treated at the Military Hospital, Wellington. Wing Commander Prithvi Singh Chauhan, commanding officer of 109 helicopter unit in Sulur airbase, was the ill-fated helicopter's pilot. He, too, died in the crash.

The IAF has ordered an inquiry to ascertain the cause of the accident. It is believed that the pilot’s visibility was affected due to the high amount of mist in the area. Sources said the helicopter took off from the Sulur Air Base at 11.45 am and was scheduled to reach the Defence Services Staff Colleges in Wellington at 12.20 pm. The fatal crash happened around 12.10 pm near a residential colony of private tea estate employees at Nanjappachatiram.

Locals said the helicopter was seen flying in a valley from east to west at a low altitude when it seemed to develop a technical snag and attempted a U-turn. It turned north and proceeded about 100 m, caught fire, and rammed a tree before crashing into a hill. Eyewitnesses said two people — the pilot and a person who appeared to be about 55-years-old — jumped out of the chopper before it crashed into the tree.

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