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29 Sep 2022, 19:50 HRS IST
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  • IAF chopper with CDS Bipin Rawat onboard crashes in forest area in TN; four killed, three injured

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15:44 HRS IST

(Eds: Adds details)

Coonoor (TN), Dec 8 (PTI)
An Indian Air Force helicopter with Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat on board crashed on Wednesday near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu, the IAF said, as four people were killed in the mishap that happened reportedly due to low visibility owing to foggy conditions.

However, there was no immediate information on the condition of Gen Rawat, even as the IAF said a Court of Inquiry has been ordered into the accident, involving a Mi-17VH chopper that took off from the Sulur IAF Station in nearby Coimbatore.

TV visuals showed the badly damaged chopper in flames, possibly under the impact of the crash. Apparently, a major tragedy was averted as the helicopter fell at some distance away from a human habitation, averting possible mass casualties.

The accident site was a scene of despair with trees being reduced to broken pieces under the impact of the crash, flames from the chopper engulfing the wooden logs resulting in billowing smoke and personnel scurrying to douse the fire, including using buckets and water hose. What seemed to be some charred bodies were also seen lying around.

The mangled and burnt remains of the ill-fated IAF chopper were strewn along the site, even as rescue services personnel were seen carrying bodies in stretchers to be transported through waiting ambulances.

The accident site remained out of bounds for civilians.

Official sources in New Delhi said all the injured people on board the helicopter had been evacuated from the spot of the accident.

Rawat was on his way to the Defence Staff College in Wellington.

Official sources in Coimbatore said four bodies had been retrieved and three people rescued from under the debris of the helicopter which crashed in Katteri-Nanchappanchathram area near here in the hilly Nilgiris district. There was no concrete information on the number of persons travelling in the helicopter though official sources had earlier said 3-4 senior officials were among its occupants.

The helicopter, carrying a few senior officials, was on its way from Sulur in Coimbatore to DSC in Wellington where Rawat, along with Chief of Army Staff MM Naravane, was slated to participate in an event later, the sources added.

The chopper crashed in the forest area, reportedly due to poor visibility following heavy fog, they added.

Rescue personnel, along with Army men, were seen involved in clearing the area.

Medical teams from nearby Coimbatore, including burns specialists, have also been sent to Coonoor to treat the injured.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin will visit Coonoor and will leave for Coimbatore by air later in the day.

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