The helicopter crashed shortly after it took off from the Air Force base in Sulur, Coimbatore

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and his wife Madhulika Rawat were among 13 persons who died following the tragic crash of an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday afternoon.

The sole survivor of the crash, Gp Capt Varun Singh, is currently under treatment at the Military Hospital, Wellington.

A former Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat had been appointed as India's first Chief of Defence Staff in 2019.

Gen Rawat was on a visit to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course.

The helicopter crashed shortly after it took off from the Air Force base in Sulur, Coimbatore, for Wellington in the Nilgiri Hills.

The Indian Air Force confirmed the crash at about 2 pm.

"Around noon today, an IAF Mi 17 V5 helicopter with a crew of 4 members carrying the CDS and 9 other passengers met with a tragic accident near Coonoor, TN," the Indian Air Force said on Twitter.

Condolences poured in after the deaths were officially confirmed.

"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," President Ram Nath Kovind said on Rashtrapati Bhavan's official Twitter handle.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his deep anguish.

"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," PM Modi said in Twitter.

He described Gen Bipin Rawat as "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," he added.

"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," PM Modi said.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh described 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 said in a post on Twitter.

The Defence Minister and Army Chief MM Naravane had visited General Rawat's home in Delhi before the official announcement came.

The Indian Army condoled the deaths.

"General MM Naravane #COAS & All Ranks of #IndianArmy pay heartfelt condolences on the untimely demise of General Bipin Rawat #CDS, Mrs Madhulika Rawat & 11 other passengers on board, in an unfortunate air crash at #Coonoor," it said on its official Twitter handle.

"The dynamic and inspiring leadership of General Bipin Rawat shall remain eternally etched in our memories. The #IndianArmedForces will forever remain indebted to his invaluable contributions," the Indian Army added.
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