March 30. 2023. 3:25

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Head of Indian military among 13 killed in helicopter crash

A man stands next to the crash site in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, where a helicopter carrying India’s defence chief Gen Bipin Rawat crashed on Wednesday. Photograph: Surya Narayanan/AFP via Getty Images

India’s military chief Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other people have been killed in a helicopter crash in southern Tamil Nadu state.

The country’s air force said in a tweet that the helicopter “met with a tragic accident”.

It said one air force officer, Group Captain Varun Singh, survived and was being treated in a military hospital.

Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati said the Mi-17V5 helicopter was on its way from an air force base to the army defence services college when it crashed near the town of Coonoor, a hill station in Tamil Nadu.

The reason for the crash was not immediately known.

Television images from the crash site showed plumes of smoke billowing from the debris as local residents tried to put out the fire and remove bodies from the wreckage.

Indian army chief Gen Bipin Rawat in New Delhi in 2018. Photograph: Rajat Gupta/EPA

Prime minister Narendra Modi said Gen Rawat contributed greatly to modernising the country’s armed forces. “His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional,” Mr Modi added.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh said Gen Rawat “served the country with exceptional courage and diligence”.

The air force said an inquiry has been ordered into the accident.

Gen Rawat (63) is the most senior official in the Indian military and the first chief of defence staff, a position created by the government in 2019.

He is also an adviser to the defence ministry and handles co-ordination and integration of the combat capabilities of the armed forces.

He previously served as chief of army staff. – AP

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