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New Purported Video Of Crash Shot By A Group Of Tourists Shows The Chopper Was Flying At Low Altitude And Disappeared Into What Was Either Thick Fog Or A Cloud. It Crashed Seconds Later.


File photo of Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in the Lok Sabha. | PTI

New Delhi: The ill-fated Mi-17 V5 chopper of the Indian Air Force (IAF), which was carrying Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, lost contact with Air Traffic Control at Sulur Air Base seven minutes before it was expected to land, Defence minister Rajnath Singh told the Lok Sabha Thursday.

Singh told the Parliament that a tri-Service enquiry into the incident has been ordered. It will be headed by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Training Command.

Giving details of the events, the defence minister said Gen Rawat was on a scheduled visit to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington to interact with the student officers. The IAF chopper took off from Sulur Air Base at 11:48 am Wednesday and was expected to land at Wellington by 12:15 pm, he said in a statement in the Lok Sabha.

“Air Traffic Control at Sulur Air Base lost contact with the helicopter at approximately 12:08 PM. Subsequently, few locals spotted a fire in the forest near Coonoor and rushed to the spot where they observed the wreckage of a military helicopter engulfed in flames. Rescue teams from the local administration in the vicinity reached the site and attempted to recover the survivors from the crash site,” he said.

ThePrint reported earlier that four out of the 14 onboard were initially rescued, including Gen Rawat who was badly injured but still breathing. He later succumbed to his injuries, as did two others. 

“Latest reports have confirmed that out of the total 14 persons onboard the ill-fated helicopter, 13 have succumbed to their injuries,” Singh told the House.

Group Captain Varun Singh, the lone survivor, is on life support in the Military Hospital at Wellington.

“The dead include the spouse of the CDS, Mrs Madhulika Rawat, his Defence Adviser Brig Lakhbinder Singh Lidder, Staff Officer Lt Col Harjinder Singh and nine other Armed Forces personnel including the Air Force helicopter crew,” Singh said.

“Their names are Wing Commander Prithvi Singh Chauhan, Squadron Leader Kuldeep Singh, Junior Warrant Officer Rana Pratap Das, Junior Warrant Officer Arakkal Pradeep, Havildar Satpal Rai, Naik Gursewak Singh, Naik Jitendra Kumar, Lance Naik Vivek Kumar, Lance Naik B Sai Teja,” he added. 

The defence minister said the CDS will be cremated with full military honours.

Video shot seconds before crash sheds light on what happened

A purported video shot by a group of tourists seconds before the helicopter crashed gave fresh insight into what may have happened.

The helicopter was flying at low altitude and disappeared into what was either thick fog or a cloud. Seconds later, the chopper could be heard crashing, according to the video.

The video showed that the weather was bad, contrary to what several outlets reported Wednesday. 

Sources in the defence establishment, who have seen the video, said that it seemed like the helicopter was near the helipad and so was flying low.

While the tri-Service enquiry will look into the exact cause of the accident, the video along with the Flight Data Recorder (black box) will shed light.

Sources said that there was no distress call from the pilot of the aircraft Wing Commander Prithvi Singh, who was the Commanding Officer of the 109 Helicopter Unit.