Chennai: A man who lives near the site where an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter carrying CDS General Bipin Rawat among 14 others crashed on Wednesday, said he saw 12 bodies scattered near the site of the accident.
India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, his wife, and 11 others were killed when their IAF Mi-17 helicopter crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiris district, the IAF said.
“With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident,” the IAF said in a tweet.
Ravi, an eye witness, said two persons -- whose suffered serious burn injuries, were rescued from the ill-fated chopper but they were struggling for life.
Ravi, who lives near the crash site at Coonoor in Tamil Nadu, told IANS: “I heard a loud sound and found the helicopter in flames and coming down. I rushed to the spot with a few local residents and found 12 charred bodies... we rescued two persons but they were struggling for life. An ambulance took them to the Army hospital, Wellington.”
Gen Rawat was among the 14 persons on oard the ill-fated helicopter.
The chopper, with a total of 14 persons, took off from the Sulur air base near Coimbatore and was on its way to Coonoor. When the chopper was a few minutes away from landing, it, as per eyewitnesses, hit a tree, crashed, and caught fire, resulting in several casualties.
“We knew that they were Army officers but did not know that General Rawat was in the helicopter,” he said.
Krishna Moorthy, a farmhand who was also with Ravi, said: “The sound was so loud that I felt the earth was cracking and suddenly found the helicopter coming down... The two persons whom we rescued had little life in them.”
He said that immediately after the local people reached the spot and rescued the two persons, Tamil Nadu police, Fire, and Army officials reached the spot and shifted the 12 bodies to Wellington hospital.
Sukumaran, a local journalist, told IANS: “The weather condition for the past one week was very bad and it was full of mist. Today, the condition of the weather was very bad... It was only 87 km from Sullur airforce base to the Defence station, Wellington.”
The CDS was to deliver a talk at the Wellington Staff college at 2.30 p.m. to the young cadet officers.