Chopper crash in TN with General Bipin Rawat on board: What do we know so far?

The incessant fire and a billow of smoke from a hilly district of the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu have shown how the accident was dreadful and how it has caused disruption in rescuing the victims. The nation was filled with headlines and developments about the chopper crash in Tamil Nadu. The Air Force chopper was crashed in the afternoon hours of Wednesday with General Bipin Rawat, Chief of India's Defence Staff, was on board. While at least ten people have died in the accident, Rawat's condition is not yet known. 

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the accident and he also had briefed the Union Cabinet. He will also be visiting Nilgiris and will take stock of how the accident has occurred. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and DGP C Sylendra Babu will also be visiting the Nilgiris and earlier, the Chief Minister had ordered the Nilgiris district administration to expedite the relief efforts and offer high standards of treatment to the officers who were injured. As the condition of Rawat is yet to be revealed, let's take a look at what do we know so far. 

  • The air force chopper - Mi-17V5 helicopter was carrying 14 people on board - nine officers and five crew members. The people on board include Bipin Rawat, his wife, and top army officials. The Mi-17 series helicopters were touted to one of the most advanced flyers, but it had eventually succumbed to a mist and foggy weather. 
  • This type of chopper can carry over 25 people. This chopper with Rawat on board had started from Sulur Air Base in Coimbatore at around 11.45 am on Wednesday and it was scheduled to reach Defence Services Staff College in Wellington, Coonoor at around 12.30 pm. 
  • However, ten minutes ahead of landing, the chopper had crashed in the Katteri area near the army training camp and hit the ground with 14 people on board. The reports say that the crash site was close to a tea estate, around seven kilometres away from Coonoor. 
  • The Indian Air Force has confirmed that Rawat was on board and he was on his way to deliver a lecture at the Defence Staff College in Wellington. 
  • The IAF has also said that an inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident. The reports had said poor visibility due to heavy fog as the reason behind the crash.
  • At least ten people have died so far after the accident and the chopper was burning for over an hour, which had disrupted the rescue works.
  • The rest of the people had sustained severe injuries and as all of them had got burn injuries, it has become difficult for the authorities to ascertain their identities. However, the rescue team had managed to evacuate all the injured people on board the helicopter. 
  • At least six ambulances with a 12-member team were rushed to the accident location and a team of ten doctors from the Coimbatore ESI Hospital has also rushed to the spot. 
  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Air Force Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari will be visiting the spot and will conduct an enquiry.
  • Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin will be arriving in Coimbatore at around 5 pm and will then travel to the Nilgiris. The local residents had informed about the accident to the district administration and it was then informed to the defence department. 
  • ANI has reported that local military officers have reached the location and were told that the local residents had taken two bodies with 80 per cent burns to a local hospital. As the rescue work continues, the chopper was completely charred. 
  • Speaking to a news agency, a former army general has said that the bodies recovered are charred due to which making identification has become difficult. It has also been reported that the Mi series choppers are used in high-altitude operations and they are also used to carry VIPs including the Prime Minister. 
  • The cause of the crash is officially not known. ANI has reported that Rajnath Singh had visited the residence of Bipin Rawat in Delhi and earlier it was reported that the government will issue a statement in Parliament on the crash of the chopper. 
  • Army Chief General MM Naravane briefs Defence Minister Rajnath Singh over the incident of the crash of a military chopper in Tamil Nadu.
  • Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin took to Twitter and wrote, "I am deeply shocked & disheartened on hearing the army chopper with CDS General Bipin Rawat and 13 others have met with an accident near Coonoor." 
  • "I've instructed the local administration to provide all the help needed in rescue operations even as I'm rushing to the spot", MK Stalin added. It must be noted that General Bipin Rawat is the inaugural holder of the post of the Chief of Defence Staff. Previously, he had served as the Indian Army Chief. 
  • The locals in the spot had said that the fire was burning to the height of their residences and they can't able to go near it. 
  • Tamil Nadu Forest Minister K Ramachandran has said, "I have reached here (chopper crash site) on the instructions of the Chief Minister". He added that the rescue operation is underway. 
  • These Mi-series choppers have 36 seats and can fly at a speed of 250 km/per hour. It was launched in 1975 and India has imported these choppers from Russia. As of 2018, India has around 150 M-series choppers in its defence fleet.