Indian Military Chief, 12 Passengers Die in Helicopter Crash

Chief of Defense Staff Bipin Rawathe is the most senior official in the Indian military

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Chief of Defense Staff Bipin Rawat in Calcutta, last year.
Chief of Defense Staff Bipin Rawat in Calcutta, last year. Credit: DIBYANGSHU SARKAR - AFP

India's military chief and 12 other passengers died in a helicopter crash Wednesday in southern Tamil Nadu state, the air force said. 

Thirteen out of 14 people died in the crash of the Indian military helicopter. Chief of Defense Staff Bipin Rawathe and his wife were among the passengers. 

Television images showed the helicopter in flames as local residents tried to douse it.

The air force said in a tweet that an inquiry has been ordered into the accident.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said of the tragedy: "On behalf of myself and the defense establishment, I wish to express the condolences to the Indian nation and the Indian defense establishment for the passing of Chief of Defense Staff Bipin Rawathe in a helicopter accident, together with his wife and staff," he said. 

Gantz called Rawathe "a partner of the IDF and the defense establishment" who contributed much to strengthening the security relations between the two countries, and was even expected to visit Israel soon.

Rawathe is the most senior official in the Indian military. He is also an adviser to the Defense Ministry. He assumed the newly created post last year after retiring as army chief.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the Mi-17V5 helicopter was on its way from an air force base to the army defense services college when it crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.

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