NEW DELHI, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- India's Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said the Indian Air Force (IAF) has ordered a tri-service inquiry into the military helicopter crash that killed the country's Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 others.
"In connection with the accident, IAF has ordered a tri-service inquiry under the Air Marshal Manvendra Singh. The inquiry team reached Wellington yesterday itself and started the investigation," Singh said.
Singh made the statement in India's lower house of parliament, locally known as Lok Sabha, and said the mortal remains of the killed in the crash will reach New Delhi by Thursday evening.
While making the statement, he said, "With profound grief and heavy heart, I stand to convey the unfortunate news of the crash of the military helicopter in the noon of 8th December 2021, with India's first Chief of Defense Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat onboard."
The defense minister said Rawat was then "on a scheduled visit to Defense Services Staff College, Wellington to interact with the student officers."
According to him, the Air Force Mi-17 V5 helicopter involved took off from Sulur Air Base at 11:48 a.m. on Wednesday and was expected to land at Wellington by 12:15 p.m. Air traffic control at Sulur Air Base lost contact with the helicopter at approximately 12:08 p.m.
Singh said, "A few locals spotted a fire in the forest near Coonoor and rushed to the spot where they found the wreckage of military helicopter engulfed in flames. Rescue teams from the local administration in the vicinity reached the site and attempted to recover the survivors from the crash site."
Singh also read out the names of all the people killed in the crash.
Both houses of parliament observed a two-minute silence over the demise of Rawat and others in the helicopter crash.
According to Singh, the sole survivor in the crash has been put on life support and efforts are underway to save him.
"Group Captain Varun Singh is on life support in the military hospital at Wellington and all efforts are being made to save his life," Singh said.
The helicopter with 14 people on board crashed on Wednesday at Coonoor area of Nilgiris district, about 538 km southwest of Chennai, the capital city of the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Reports said the black box of the chopper has been recovered.