NEW DELHI: The Mi-17V5 helicopter crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu that killed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika and 11 others brought back memories of a 1963 chopper accident in which six officers were killed in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch.
The crash in Poonch is considered as one of the major air accidents in the country’s military aviation history.
The military officers killed in the chopper crash on November 22, 1963 were Lieutenant General Daulat Singh, Lieutenant General Bikram Singh, Air Vice Marshal EW Pinto, Major General KND Nanavati, Brigadier SR Oberoi and Flight Lieutenant SS Sodhi.
The crash in Coonoor is also a grim reminder of the 1952 Devon crash near Lucknow, in which the Indian Army’s top leadership could have been lost.
Lieutenant General SM Shrinagesh, the then General Officer Commanding in-Chief (GOC-in-C) of the Western Command, and Major General KS Thimayya, the QuarterMaster General, had miraculously survived the crash.
Both of them went on to become Army chiefs.
Other officials on board the chopper were Major General SPP Thorat, Major General Mohinder Singh Chopra, Major General Sardanand Singh and Brigadier Ajaib Singh.
Major General Thorat later became the Eastern Army commander.
The pilot of the Devon aircraft, Flight Lieutenant Suhas Biswas, was conferred with the Ashoka Chakra, the highest peacetime gallantry award, for his presence of mind in averting any loss of lives.
In 2019, former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh and eight other armed forces personnel were injured in a chopper crash in the Poonch sector.
The lone survivor in the Coonor crash, Group Captain Varun Singh, is currently under treatment at a military hospital in Wellington.
Rawat had survived a helicopter crash in 2015, when he was a lieutenant general.
The CDS was scheduled to deliver a lecture at the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington.
Those killed in the crash included Brigadier LS Lidder, the military adviser to the CDS, and staff officer Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh.