Top Air Marshal heading inquiry into Mi-17 crash, Rajnath Singh tells Lok Sabha
Defence minister Rajnath Singh told Lok Sabha that the Mi 17 V 5 helicopter carrying CDS Bipin Rawat and others took off from Sulur air base at 11:48am on Wednesday and was expected to land at Wellington by 12:15pm but the air traffic control at Sulur lost contact with the helicopter at 12:08pm.
NEW DELHI: A top three-star officer is heading an inquiry into the Mi-17 Coonoor crash in which 13 people including chief of defence staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat were killed on Wednesday, defence minister Rajnath Singh told Lok Sabha on Thursday. The tri-service inquiry under Air Marshal Manavendra Singh has already begun its work, Singh said, in a statement on the horrific crash. Manavendra Singh is the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the IAF’s Training Command in Bengaluru.
“With profound grief and heavy heart, I stand to convey the unfortunate news of the crash of the military helicopter in the noon of December 8, 2021, with India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat onboard,” Rajnath Singh said.
The defence minister gave out the timeline of the developments before the crash.
The Mi 17 V 5 helicopter took off from Sulur air base at 11:48am on Wednesday and was expected to land at Wellington by 12:15 pm but the air traffic control at Sulur lost contact with the helicopter at 12:08 pm, the minister said.
Gen Bipin Rawat was on a visit to the prestigious Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) at Wellington to address the faculty and student officers there.
After the crash, the minister said some locals spotted a fire in the forest near Coonoor and rushed to the spot where they sighted the helicopter’s wreckage engulfed in flames. Rescue teams from the local administration reached the site and attempted to recover the survivors from the crash site, he said.
“All those recovered from the wreckage were rushed to the Military Hospital, Wellington. Out of the total 14 persons onboard the ill-fated helicopter, 13 succumbed to their injuries,” he said, reading out the names of all the people killed in the crash -- Madhulika Rawat, Brig Lakhbinder Singh Lidder, Lt Col Harjinder Singh, Wing Commander Prithvi Singh Chauhan (pilot), Squadron Leader Kuldeep Singh (co-pilot), Junior Warrant Officers Rana Pratap Das and Arakkal Pradeep, Havildar Satpal Rai, Naik Gursewak Singh, Naik Jitendra Kumar, Lance Naik Vivek Kumar and Lance Naik B Sai Teja.
The minister said Group Captain Varun Singh, the sole survivor of the crash, was on life support at the Military Hospital in Wellington and all efforts are being made to save his life. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari visited the hospital.
CDS Bipin Rawat will be cremated with full military honours, the minister said.
“I, on behalf of the august House, pay homage to the deceased persons and express condolences to the bereaved families,” said an emotional Singh. The remains of the 13 people killed in the crash are being flown to Delhi today in an IAF aircraft.