Twelve defence families, including the family of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, are in mourning following the loss of 13 lives in a helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu’s Coonoor on Wednesday.Apart from General Rawat, the crash claimed the lives of his wife Madhulika Rawat and 12 defence personnel, some of who were part of the CDS’ staff.
One of these bereaved families is that of Havildar Satpal Rai who was posted as Personal Security Officer (PSO) with General Rawat.A resident of Takdah in Darjeeling, Rai was the pride of his village for his association with the armed forces and with General Rawat.His son Bikkal Rai is also in the Army.
Still in shock over his tragic demise, the family said they had spoken to Rai just a few hours before he boarded the ill-fated Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopter.
“He called around 8.30am and told me over the video call that he is going to Tamil Nadu.He said he would call later.He was supposed to come home soon but now everything is over.
How did this accident happen? Proper investigation should take place… how is this possible?” his wife Mandira said while speaking to News18Apart from his wife and son, Rai is also survived by a 16-year-old daughter.
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Satpal Rai grew up in tea gardens of Darjeeling but always wanted to be in the armed forces.Following his posting with General Rawat, he told his family and friends that his dream is now a reality.
“We are in grief.He joined the Army in 2001 and he became PSO to CDS Bipin Rawat from 2012.He was a very jovial person.We are with his family in grief,” neighbour Padam Gurung said.
In a brief statement in parliament, India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the remains of all the deceased would be brought to New Delhi and Rawat would be cremated with full military honours.
The Army has set up a Court of Inquiry to investigate circumstances that led to the crash.The black box of the chopper was recovered on Thursday morning.The helicopter was on its way from an air force base to the army defense services college when it crashed near the town of Coonoor, a hill station in Tamil Nadu.
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