New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will call on President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday to apprise him about the chopper crash near Coonoor that killed Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika and 11 armed forces personnel.

The President is the Supreme Commander of the armed forces.

Official sources said Singh will brief President Kovind about the accident as well as the situation arising out of it.

In a statement in Parliament, Singh said a tri-services inquiry led by Air Marshal Manavendra Singh, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Training Command, has started an investigation into the helicopter crash.

The Defence Minister said Gen Rawat was on a scheduled visit to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, to interact with the student officers.

“The Air Force Mi 17V5 helicopter took off from Sulur airbase at 11:48 am yesterday and was expected to land at Wellington by 12:15 pm. Air Traffic Control at Sulur airbase lost contact with the helicopter approximately 12:08 pm,” Singh said.

“Subsequently, a few locals spotted a fire in the forest near Coonoor and rushed to the spot where they observed the wreckage of military helicopter engulfed in flames,” he said.

The defence minister said rescue teams from the local administration in the vicinity reached the site and attempted to rescue the survivors.

“All those recovered from the wreckage were rushed to the military hospital, Wellington. Latest reports have confirmed that out of the total 14 persons on board the ill-fated helicopter, 13 have succumbed to their injuries,” he said.

Besides Gen Rawat, the dead included his wife Madhulika Rawat, his Defence Adviser Brig Lakhbinder Singh Lidder, Staff Officer Lt Col Harjinder Singh and nine other armed forces personnel.

The defence minister said Group Captain Varun Singh is on life support in the military hospital at Wellington and all efforts are being made to save his life.

“The Chief of Defence Staff would be cremated with full military honours,” he said.

Gen Rawat was strong proponent of India-US defence partnership: US

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