India's Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 other defence personnel died after a military helicopter carrying them crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.
General Rawat was on his way to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course. The chopper crashed in the Nilgiris district.
President of India Ram Nath Kovind and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were among the leaders who paid glowing tributes to Gen Rawat, the country's first Chief of Defence Staff.
Apart from his wife, CDS Rawat was accompanied by his DA Brigadier LS Lidder and SO Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh. Group Captain Varun Singh, SC, Directing Staff at DSSC, the sole survivor of the crash, is undergoing treatment at Military Hospital in Wellington.
Sources said the chopper crashed just minutes before reaching its destination in Tamil Nadu's Wellington.
The mortal remains of Gen Rawat, who was India's highest-ranking military official, and his wife are expected to reach Delhi by December 9 evening.
"I am shocked and anguished over the untimely demise of Gen Bipin Rawat and his wife, Madhulika Ji.
"It's deeply painful for me to learn of the loss of lives in the chopper crash. I join my fellow citizens in paying tributes to each of those who died while performing their duty. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families," President Kovind said in a tweet.
PM Modi said CDS Gen Rawat was "an outstanding soldier" and "a true patriot" and greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus.
The Indian Army said the dynamic and inspiring leadership of General Bipin Rawat "shall remain eternally etched in our memories".
The Indian Air Force and Indian Navy also recalled the contributions of Gen Rawat, who had served as Army chief from December 31, 2016, to December 31, 2019.
He was commissioned into the Indian Army in December 1978. He took charge as Chief of Defence Staff on January, 2020.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) officials on December 9 recovered critical equipment of the IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter.
According to the reports, the Flight Data Recorder and the Cockpit Voice Recorder of the chopper have been recovered from the site.
"Indian Air Force (IAF) has ordered a tri-service inquiry into the military chopper crash. The investigation will be led by Air Marshal Manavendra Singh. The inquiry team reached Wellington yesterday itself and started the investigation," Defence Minister Rajnath Singh informed the Lok Sabha today.