EM – Secretary of Defense visits General Rawat’s home: 10 Latest Developments

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14 people – five crew members and nine passengers – were on board the Mi-17V5 air force helicopter, which crashed at 12:20 p.m. in the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu. The Air Force has confirmed Gen Rawat was on board. It is assumed that his wife was with him. Other passengers included his defense assistant and security command.

According to the Collector of the Nilgiris, 13 people have died. A lone male survivor is being treated for 90 percent burn injuries. The condition of General Rawat is unclear.

The identity of those killed is withheld at this point. Defense Minister Rajnath Singh has briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Parliament will be briefed tomorrow. The Prime Minister of Tamil Nadu, MK Stalin, will leave for the crash site at 5 p.m. Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari is also on his way to Tamil Nadu.

The high-level cabinet committee on security, which includes Prime Minister, Interior Minister Amit Shah, Defense Minister, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar, will open at 6.30pm PM.

The helicopter crashed this morning shortly after taking off from an air force base in Sulur near Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore. It went to Wellington in Udhagamandalam, also known as Ooty, which is home to a college for defense personnel.

The crash was first reported around 12.20pm. The defense learned of the incident from villagers in nearby Katteri, who informed the district administration. Eight ambulances and medical teams from Coimbatore and Wellington are on site.

The Tamil Nadu government has dispatched senior officials, including the Nilgiri District Collector, to the crash site. A team of doctors from Udhagamandalam and experts from Coimbatore are on site. The forest minister is also on the way. Locals help with the rescue operations.

The crash site is in a wooded area, which makes it difficult to access the wreck. Pictures showed parts of the helicopter, some of which were still in flames, scattered on the slope and rescuers at work fighting their way through thick smoke and fire.

Former army chief General JJ Singh told NDTV that the recovered bodies had been found are charred, which makes identification difficult. Those rescued suffered severe burns.

The Air Force tweeted that General Rawat was on board, but also said an investigation was ordered to determine the cause of the accident. The Mi series choppers are the workhorse of the Indian Air Force and are used in high-altitude flights. They are also used to promote VIPs, including the Prime Minister.

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