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CDS Gen Rawat, wife, 11 others killed in IAF chopper crash near Ooty

The chopper was flying from Sulur air force base in Coimbatore district to the DSSC in Wellington, a town in neighbouring Nilgiris district. It crashed before landing in Wellington, in Coonoor, 3 km away.

COIMBATORE, Dec 8: Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika and 11 others on board an Indian Air Force helicopter died when their chopper on its way to the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington, crashed in nearby Coonoor in Tamil Nadu's Nilgiris district on Wednesday afternoon, the Indian Air Force said.

The lone survivor among the 14 onboard, Group Captain Varun Singh, is under treatment in the military hospital in Wellington. His condition is critical with 80% burns.

“Gen Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) 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 said.

The IAF's Russia-made Mi-17V-5, an advanced military transport helicopter, was flying from Sulur air force station in neighbouring Coimbatore district to the DSSC in Wellington when it crashed.

Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and seven others had left Delhi at 9 am by an IAF Embraer jet and reached Sulur air force station at 11:15 am. From Sulur they took the Mi-17V-5 chopper to Wellington at 11:45 am. It crashed in a forested, inaccessible area in nearby Coonoor at 12: 20 pm, minutes before landing at the destination. Villagers in nearby Katteri first reported the crash to the authorities at 12:25 pm. Thick smoke and fire were visible even by late evening.

Those who died in the IAF chopper crash were: Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat, Madhulika Rawat (CDS Bipin Rawat's wife), Brig LS Lidder, Lt Col H Singh, Wg Cdr PS Chauhan, Sqn Ldr K Singh, JWO Das, JWO Pradeep A, Hav Satpal, Nk Gursewak Singh, Nk Jitender, L/Nk Vivek, L/Nk S Teja.

General Bipin Rawat and his wife Madhulika are survived by two daughters. His last rites will be performed in New Delhi. General Rawat was born in Pauri Garhwal in Uttarakhand.

General Bipin Rawat was named to the newly created CDS post in 2019 just before he was to retire as the Indian Army chief. The post was created to facilitate a single-point contact for the Government with the defence forces and strategic restructuring of the armed forces.

Wellington is a town in the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu. Nilgiris hill district is located at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, bordering Coimbatore district. The chopper crashed in Coonoor, three km south of Wellington, and 20 km from Ooty, the district headquarters, according to initial reports. The weather was misty. Coonoor town and Ooty are famous hill stations.

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