A day after the Indian Air Force’s Mi-17V5 helicopter with Indian military’s top commander, Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat, wife Madhulika Rawat along with twelve members of the staff crashed, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh addressed both houses of the Parliament. He said that a tri-service enquiry regarding the incident had ordered by the IAF, headed by Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Training Command, Manvendra Singh.
Flight Data Recorder (FDR) of the crashed Mi-17V5 helicopter has been recovered from the wreckage and will be sent for analysis to ascertain exactly what occurred in the final moment before the crash.
On December 8, the CDS was on his way to the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington in Nilgiri Hills to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course. Group Captain Varun Singh SC, Directing Staff at DSSC, the lone survivor of the crash is being treated at Military Hospital, Wellington. The helicopter crashed barely 10 km from the landing site. Defence Minister announced in the Parliament that the Group Captain was on life support in the Military Hospital.
The CDS had arrived at the Sulur Air Base around 11.34 a.m. from the Palam Air Base in Delhi in an IAF Embraer aircraft with his wife and personal security officers. At about 11.48 a.m., the Mi-17V5 took off with the nine passengers and five crew members, including a Wing Commander and a Squadron Leader. In the statement released on September 9, Defence Minister said that at 12.08 p.m, Air Traffic Control at Sulur Air Base lost contact with the helicopter.
Around noon, the helicopter crashed into a wooded area of the Coonoor ghat in Nilgiris. The incident happened around noon and the last body was retrieved around 3.30 pm, the Indian Air Force (IAF) sent out a confirmation regarding the crash in a few minutes after the incident. However, the ascertainment from the IAF regarding the deaths of 13 out of the 14 members travelling in the copter came only past six in the evening.
The Indian Army confirmed that Brigadier L.S. Lidder, Lieutenant Colonel H. Singh, Wing Commander P.S. Chauhan, Squadron Leader K. Singh, Junior Warrant Officer (JWO) Das, JWO Pradeep A., Havildar Satpal, Naik Gursewak Singh, Naik Jitender, Lance Naik Vivek and Lance Naik S. Teja were the other defence personnel killed in the crash. Wing Commander P.S. Chauhan, Commanding Officer of the 109 Helicopter Unit (the Knights) at Air Force Station, Sulur, and Squadron Leader Kuldeep, piloted the crashed helicopter.
Hilly terrain and foggy weather conditions are being cited as the cause of the crash. Local residents, upon hearing the sound were among the first to learn of the crash and saw the chopper catching fire. They were the first ones to rush and to the crash site and tried dousing the fire. Shortly, defence personnel, police, and fire and rescue services personnel, aided by the locals, began rescue operations.
A few hours after the crash, both, the defence minister, and the Army Chief Gen Naravane visited CDS Rawat’s residence in Delhi. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) met in the evening at 6.30 p.m. and discussed the matter. Meanwhile, top military officials, including IAF Chief Air Marshal V. R. Chaudhari rushed to Coonoor to visit the crash site. CDS Gen. Bipin Rawat’s wife, Madhulika Rawat was the President of Defence Wives Welfare Association (DWWA).