New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday night led tributes to Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife, and the 11 who died in a chopper crash the day before. The 13 bodies were flown back to Delhi on a C130-J Super Hercules aircraft.
Prime Minister Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and NSA Ajit Doval were at Delhi’s Palam Air Force base to pay their final respects to Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife, and those who died in the crash. Also present were the Chiefs of Staff of the Air Force, Navy and Army. Only four bodies have been identified so far – Gen Rawat and his wife, Madhulika Rawat, Brigadier LS Lidder, and Lance Naik Vivek Kumar. Their bodies will be released to the families for last rites. The others will be kept at the Army Base Hospital till identified.
From 11 am today (Friday) the bodies of Gen Rawat and his wife will be kept at their Delhi home for family, friends, and the public to pay their final respects. The funeral procession will begin at 2 pm. The funeral itself has been scheduled for 4 pm at the Brar Square Crematorium; Brigadier Lidder’s funeral has been scheduled there at 9 am. Earlier on Thursday one of the vehicles carrying the 13 bodies met with a minor accident near Mettupalayam in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore district. The vehicles were taking the bodies to the Sulur Air Force base in Coimbatore, from where they were flown to Delhi.
In visuals shared by ANI, a large crowd of locals gathered to welcome the convoy as it reached the Sulur base. People were seen shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ and showering the road with flower petals as the string of vehicles turned into the base compound. Also Thursday, the ‘black box’, or flight data recorder, of the crashed chopper was recovered. The data will be examined as part of the high-level, tri-services inquiry ordered by the government. The inquiry will be lead Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, Mr Singh told Parliament. Group Captain Singh – the sole survivor – was being treated at the military hospital in Wellington. He has been airlifted to the Air Force’s Command Hospital in Bengaluru. The Group Captain is stable but remains in critical condition, officials have said.
Gen Bipin Rawat, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, will be cremated with full military honours Friday, as will all those who died. The bodies of Gen Rawat and his wife, Madhulika Rawat, will be taken to the Army hospital in Delhi’s Dhaula Kuan this evening. Condolence messages have come from the US, China, Nepal, the UK, Russia, Australia, France, Israel, and Japan. President Kovind said “the nation has lost one of its bravest sons” and Prime Minister Modi called Gen Rawat an “outstanding soldier”. Rajnath Singh called his death an “irreparable loss”. The Mi-17V5 Air Force chopper – described as “the workhorse of the Air Force” and widely seen as a stable aircraft, carrying Gen Rawat crashed after it took off from Sulur. Unverified footage emerged this morning of a chopper flying in the area; the clip, shared by ANI, shows it flying low and disappearing into the fog. The chopper took off at 11.48 am and was reported missing at 12.08 pm.