Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday told Parliament that the Indian Air Force has ordered a tri-service inquiry into the helicopter crash in which Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 others died a day ago, reported F10 News.
Rawat along with others had died after an Indian Air Force Mi-17V5 helicopter crashed near Coonoor town in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiris district on Wednesday. Rawat was 63.
In the Lok Sabha on Thursday, Singh said that the investigation will be led by Air Marshal Manavendra Singh, who is a helicopter pilot himself.
“The inquiry team reached Wellington yesterday [Wednesday] itself and started the investigation,” he said.
Singh also said that all effort were being made to save Group Captain Varun Singh, who is the only survivor of the crash. The defence minister said that the group captain was on life support at Military Hospital, Wellington.
The defence minister said that Rawat’s body has been brought to Delhi and cremation will be held on Friday. He also said that the flight data recorder of the helicopter has been recovered.
Recounting the incident, Singh said that the helicopter in which Rawat was travelling was supposed to land at Wellington at 12.15 pm but the contact with the chopper was lost at 12.08 pm.
“Subsequently, few locals spotted a fire in the forest near Coonoor and rushed to the spot where they observed the wreckage of military helicopter engulfed in flames,” he said. “Rescue teams from the local administration in the vicinity reached the site and attempted to recover the survivors from the crash site.”
Singh and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla paid tributes to Rawat and others. A two-minute silence was also observed in the Rajya Sabha.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said that they have decided not to protest against the suspension of 12 Upper House MPs in honour of Rawat and others, reported F10 News.
The helicopter, which took off from Sulur air base in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday afternoon, was on its way to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington, nearly three kilometres north of Coonoor, where it crashed.
Visuals from the spot in Katteri-Nanchappanchathram area of Coonoor showed wreckage of the helicopter scattered and rescuers retrieving bodies.