ISLAMABAD, Dec 8 (APP): An Indian Air Force Mi-17V5 helicopter, with the Indian Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat on board, met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, the IAF said, killing 13 out of 14 passengers.
ANI said thirteen people have been confirmed dead in the incident, however there was no official word about the condition of General Rawat.
Some media reports suggested the helicopter that was carrying 14 persons on board was targetted by the Tamil insurgents, however, there has been no official confirmation. Locals said the helicopter was on fire before it crashed. The area where it crashed has been known to be infested with Tamil insurgents & freedom fighters.
As Indian President Ram Nath Kovind cancelled his events in Mumbai, the media reported that Defence minister Rajnath Singh will brief parliament on the crash of the army chopper in Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu.
While there was no word about the Indian CDS, reports said he was rescued from the burning wreckage and reportedly has burn injuries. His wife Madhulika Rawat and members of staff were also on board.
The crash took place in the Nilgiris, shortly after the chopper took off from the army base in Sulur. The Chief of Defence Staff was on his way to the Defence Staff College in Wellington.
Indian Air Force in a tweet said: “An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter, with CDS Gen Bipin Rawat on board, met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. An Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident.”
According to the ANI the footage from the site of the crash showed flames and locals helping with the immediate rescue operations. Several teams were at the site carrying out search and rescue operations. Local military officers have reached the location, ANI said.
The ANI quoted official sources as saying that all the injured people on board the Mi-17V5 helicopter have been evacuated from the spot of the accident. The District officials said initially four bodies have been recovered from the military helicopter crash site in the Nilgiris and shifted to the Military hospital in Wellington; while three injured persons, who have serious burn injuries, have also been rescued and moved to the hospital.
The World Conflicts Monitoring Center quoted locals and confirmed that some missile-like object hit the helicopter.
The Mi-17V5 is a modern transport helicopter used by the Indian Air Force and is equipped with modern avionics, It is capable of operating in any geographical and climatic conditions, day and night, in adverse weather situations and capable of landing on unprepared sites at night.
The Russia-made helicopter Mi-17 V5 is a trusted aircraft used for movement of the dignitaries including the prime minister and is one of the top of the line series. The last batch of the chopper was delivered to India in 2018. According to Indian media, there have been no major crashes of the helicopter apart from the friendly fire casualty in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir in February 2019, a day after India conducted a botched aerial strike in Pakistan’s Balakot in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack.