New Delhi : Defense Minister Rajnath Singh told both the Houses of Parliament on Thursday that a tri-service team led by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh has started the investigation into Wednesday’s helicopter crash in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. In this accident, 13 people including the country’s first Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat died. Rajnath Singh said in his statement first in the Lok Sabha and later in the Rajya Sabha, “Chief of Defense Chief General Bipin Rawat was on a pre-scheduled visit on Wednesday to interact with the students of Defense Services Staff College,
Wellington.” According to reports, General Rawat along with his wife and 12 others had taken off from Sulur in a Mi-17V5 helicopter for Wellington at 11:48 am. The helicopter was to land in Wellington at 12.15 pm. The Sulur Air Traffic Controller lost contact with the helicopter at 12.08. Later, local people saw a fire in the forest near Coonoor. On reaching the spot, they saw the helicopter engulfed in flames after which a rescue team of the local administration reached there. The Defense Minister said that people were evacuated from the helicopter and taken to the Military Hospital in Wellington as soon as possible. He said that out of the total 14 people on board the helicopter, 13 died in this accident, including CDS General Rawat and his wife Madhulika Rawat. Singh said that the other dead were Brig Lakhwinder Singh Lidder, Defense Advisor to CDS, Lt Col Harjinder Singh, Military Advisor and Staff Officer of CDS, Wing Commander Prateek Singh Chauhan, Squadron Leader Kuldeep Singh, Junior Warrant Officer Rana Pratap Das, Junior Officer Arakkal Pradeep. , Havildar Satpal, Naik Gursewak Singh, Naik Jitendra Kumar, Lance Naik Vivek Kumar and Lance Naik Veer Sai Teja.
He said that Group Captain Varun Singh is on life support at the Military Hospital in Wellington. The Defense Minister told the House that the mortal remains of the slain servicemen would be brought to Delhi by an Air Force aircraft by this evening. General Rawat will be cremated with full military honours. He said that other slain servicemen would also be cremated with due military honours. He also informed that Air Chief Marshal VR Choudhary was sent to the accident site only yesterday and he went there to take stock of the situation. Singh said that an inquiry has been ordered by a team of the three services headed by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh to probe the accident and this team has reached Wellington and started investigation. Paying homage to the departed army personnel on behalf of himself and the entire country, he expressed condolences to their families. A few moments of silence was observed in both the houses in honor of the departed military personnel.