Bhubaneswar: With the nation glued to the television sets and the citizens hoping against hope as the tragic news of Indian Air Force helicopter carrying Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Singh Rawat broke. The Mi-17V5 carrying 14 passengers crashed barely 8 minutes before landing at Wellington.
The incident has ‘shocked and saddened’ the nation as it claimed 13 lives, with the lone survivor Group Capt Varun Singh battling for life with injuries at Military Hospital, Wellington.
The helicopter carrying 14 occupants, including Rawat and his wife, had taken off from New Delhi to Sulur where the former was to deliver a lecture. However, it crashed near Coonoor under Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu.
In his condolence message, President Ramnath Kovind said: “It’s deeply painful for me to learn of the loss of lives in the chopper crash. I join the fellow citizens in paying tributes to each of those who died while performing their duty. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families”. “I am shocked and anguished over the untimely demise of Gen. Bipin Rawat and his wife, Madhulika ji. 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”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “I am deeply anguished by the helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu in which we have lost Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and other personnel of the Armed Forces. They served India with utmost diligence. My thoughts are with the bereaved families”.
“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. Om Shanti,” Modi tweeted.
“As India’s first CDS, Gen Rawat worked on diverse aspects relating to our armed forces including defence reforms. He brought with him a rich experience of serving in the Army. India will never forget his exceptional service,” the PM said in his message.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also took to the micro-blogging site where he wrote: “Deeply anguished by the sudden demise of Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other Armed Forces personnel in an extremely unfortunate helicopter accident today in Tamil Nadu. His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country”.
“General Rawat had served the country with exceptional courage and diligence. As the first Chief of Defence Staff he had prepared plans for jointness of our Armed Forces,” he tweeted.
“My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their loved ones in this accident. Praying for the speedy recovery of Gp Capt Varun Singh, who is currently under treatment at the Military Hospital, Wellington,” Singh said.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Defence Minister had visited Rawat’s house in New Delhi, which ostensibly was a hint that the shocking news was around the corner.
Home Minister Amit Shah also expressed his condolence on the tragic incident.
“A very sad day for the nation as we have lost our CDS, General Bipin Rawat Ji in a very tragic accident. He was one of the bravest soldiers, who has served the motherland with utmost devotion. His exemplary contributions & commitment cannot be put into words. I am deeply pained,” Shah expressed.
“I also express my deepest condolences on the sad demise of Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other Armed Forces personnel. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. May God give them the strength to bear this tragic loss. Praying for the speedy recovery of Gp Capt Varun Singh,” he further said.