India's top military leader among 13 dead in helicopter crash

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to the general.

December 08, 2021, 12:56 PM

India's military chief and his wife were among 13 killed in a helicopter crash around noon local time on Wednesday.

Gen. Bipin Rawat was traveling to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course. The helicopter crashed roughly 2 miles away from the college, in Coonoor.

PHOTO: Firemen and rescue workers stand next to the debris of an IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter crash site in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, on Dec. 8, 2021.
Firemen and rescue workers stand next to the debris of an IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter crash site in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, on Dec. 8, 2021.
AFP via Getty Images

The Indian Air Force confirmed the crash in a thread on Twitter, calling it a "tragic accident," adding that the vehicle was an IAF Mi 17 V5, a Soviet-designed military helicopter.

One of the 14 people aboard the aircraft survived and was being treated at a hospital.

The cause of the crash wasn't immediately known. Authorities are investigating.

PHOTO: People help carry body of one of the victims from near the site of an IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter crash in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, on Dec. 8, 2021.
People help carry body of one of the victims from near the site of an IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter crash in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, on Dec. 8, 2021.
AFP via Getty Images

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Rawat "an outstanding soldier" and a "true patriot" who has greatly contributed to modernizing India's armed forces and security apparatus.

"His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional," Modi stated on his official Twitter account. "India will never forget his exceptional service."

PHOTO: People console family members of victims of the helicopter crash after their caskets arrived at Palam airport in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2021.
People console family members of victims of the helicopter crash after their caskets arrived at Palam airport in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2021.
Manish Swarup/AP

Other Indian officials express their condolences, some on social media.

"India stands united in this grief," Rahul Gandhi, a member of the Indian National Congress, tweeted, calling the accident "an unprecedented tragedy."

PHOTO: People console family members of victims of the helicopter crash after their caskets arrived at Palam airport in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2021.
People console family members of victims of the helicopter crash after their caskets arrived at Palam airport in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2021.
Manish Swarup/AP

Born in 1958, Rawat became India's first chief of defense staff, or CDS, in 2019. As the highest-ranking active duty military officer in the country, he also worked as an adviser to the minister of defense and led India's Department of Military Affairs.

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