India’s Defence Chief Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 other people were killed after a military helicopter they were travelling in crashed in southern India on Wednesday, the Indian Air Force said.
Rawat, 63, was appointed as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in late 2019.
The accident took place around noon near the town of Coonoor, and the dead include four crew members of the Mi-17V5 helicopter, the Air Force said in a tweet.
The Air Force said Group Captain Varun Singh with injuries is currently under treatment at a military hospital in Wellington.
The Indian Air Force has also said that it had ordered an inquiry into what happened.
Rawat’s family had been serving in the Indian Army for multiple generations. His father Laxman Singh Rawat served the Indian Army and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-General.
Bipin Rawat and Madhulika Rawat are survived by two daughters.
President Ram Nath Kovind expressed shock and anguish over his tragic accident. He tweeted: “The nation has lost one of its bravest sons. His four decades of selfless service to the motherland was marked by exceptional gallantry and heroism. My condolences to his family.”
“Gen Bipin Rawat was an outstanding soldier. A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus. His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional. His passing away has saddened me deeply,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.