Tri-service probe ordered into crash that killed Rawat


Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh announced on December 9 that a tri-service inquiry will be conducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter crash that killed the country’s first Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat, wife Madhulika, and 11 other armed forces personnel.

The minister said the inquiry team will be led by Air Marshal Manavendra Singh, who reached Wellington on the day of the crash itself and has already started his investigation.

Air Marshal Singh is the commander of the IAF’s training command and a helicopter pilot himself, according to air force personnel. He has previously served as the Director General of Inspection and Flight Safety and is uniquely qualified for the investigation.

While making a statement in Parliament on the matter, the defense minister also said Group Captain Varun Singh, the only survivor of the crash, is on life support. Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, observed a 2-minute silence for the deceased.

A video of the last moments of the chopper and eyewitness accounts suggest that the Mi 17V5 crashed into trees amid thick fog. There is no preliminary information about a technical snag. The chopper may have missed a waypoint towards the Wellington gymkhana helipad, ‘Economic Times’ reported.

The lack of distress signal from the crew and a video showing the chopper moving into thick fog moments before a loud crash will be vital clues for the inquiry team. The wreckage of the chopper was found entangled in a thicket of trees near a tea estate.

The helicopter crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on December 7, after losing contact with the Sulur control room at around 12.08pm.


Here is a look at the 11 bravehearts who died alongside CDS Bipin Rawat and wife Madhulika:

Brig LS Lidder: Commissioned to Jammu and Kashmir Rifles in December 1990. Was DA to CDS since January 2021. Approved for promotion as Major General, he was due to take over a Division. Commanded brigade in the Northern borders. Was instructor at NDA and Director at Military Operations Directorate.

Lt Col Harjinder Singh: 2/11 Gorkha Rifles; Commissioned in September 2001 from OTA, Chennai. He was an instructor at IMA, Dehradun. Served in the Northeast and J&K. Also, in Sikkim Scouts. Was a Staff Officer in a Corps HQ.

Lance Naik B Sai Teja: 11 Para (SF). Enrolled in June 2013, he served in super high altitudes in Arunachal Pradesh along the border with China. Part of counter-terrorist operations in Manipur and Nagaland. Mixed martial arts, unarmed combat, and communications and electronic warfare expert.

Lance Naik Vivek Kumar: 1 Para (SF). Enrolled in December 2012, he served in South and North Kashmir, and also near the India-China border ahead of Spiti. Specialist in combat freefall, communications expert and excellent in unarmed combat.

Lance Naik Jitender Kumar: 3 Para (SF). Enrolled in March 2011, he served in the Desert Sector along the Indo-Pak border, on the India-China border near Pithoragarh, and in J&K. Expert sniper and specialist in communications.

Naik Gursevak Singh: 9 Para (SF). Enrolled in March 2004, he served in Ladakh, Poonch-Rajouri, South and North Kashmir. A demolition specialist, he was an expert in unarmed combat and close-quarter battle.

Havildar Satpal Rai: 5/11 Gorkha Rifles. Enrolled in March 2002, he served in Siachen, Naushera, Nagaland and Manipur. His son is serving in the same unit as his father since last one year.

Indian Air Force Wg Cdr P.S. Chauhan: Commissioned in the IAF in June 2002 as a helicopter pilot. Belonged to Agra.

Sqn Ldr Kuldeep: Commissioned in the IAF in June 2015 as a helicopter pilot. Belonged to Ghardana Khurd, Rajasthan.

JWO R.P. Das: Enrolled in the IAF in June 2006, he was a flight engineer who belonged to Angul, Odisha.

JWO A. Pradeep: Enrolled in Jan 2004, he was a flight gunner who belonged to Thrissur, Kerala.