General was found alive, died on way to hospital: Rescuer

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General was found alive, died on way to hospital: Rescuer
© Provided by The Times of India

UDHAGAMANDALAM: CDS General Bipin Rawat was alive and able to say his name when he was extricated from the wreckage of the Mi-17V5 chopper along with another passenger, later identified as Group Captain Varun Singh, said a senior leading fireman who was among the first to reach the crash site near Coonoor on Wednesday.

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“We rescued two people alive. One was CDS Rawat. As we carried him out, he spoke in a low tone to the defence personnel in Hindi and uttered his name. He died on way to hospital. We could not immediately identify the other person who was taken to hospital and is undergoing treatment now,” said rescuer N C Murali.

READ ALSO: When Bipin Rawat survived a crash in 2015

Gen Rawat, he said, suffered severe burns in the lower part of his body. “He was taken to the ambulance wrapped in a bed sheet.”

Gen Bipin Rawat was an outstanding soldier. A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces… https://t.co/aUyn7tlnST

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1638968395000

The rescue team found the terrain tough. “There was no road to take the fire service engine to douse the flames. We had to fetch water in pots from the nearby river and houses. The operation was so difficult as we had to prise open the jagged pieces of the chopper to rescue people or retrieve the bodies,” Murali said.

READ ALSO: Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, wife and 11 others die in chopper crash in Tamil Nadu

An uprooted tree that had to be chopped posed a further hindrance. “All this delayed our rescue work. Twelve bodies were retrieved and two men taken out alive, both with severe burn injuries,” Murali said.

IAF personnel joined the rescue operation halfway and guided the team into the mangled portions of the chopper. “Weapons were lying amid the debris; so we had to carry out the operation carefully,” the senior leading fireman said.

About 100 metres away from the crash site, at Kattery village, daily-wage labourer Pothum Ponnum had noticed the chopper whirring overhead moments before it crashed. “In no time, we heard thundering sound and knew the chopper had crashed,” she said.

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Residents of Kattery alerted district officials and power supply to the area was immediately cut. “When we tried to go to the accident spot, we were stopped by the police,” Pothum said.

Prakash, a resident of Burliar hamlet, saw the chopper crash from 100 feet away. “I saw it flying just 200 meters above my house. It was misty in the morning. Suddenly, it hit a tree and crashed with a bang. People living nearby ran away from their houses, fearing a blaze,” he said.

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Most of the bodies were trapped under the debris, said joint director of health (Nilgiris) Dr S Palanisamy, who visited the site. “The fire was uncontrollable,” he said.

A team of doctors was rushed to the Wellington Military Hospital, where the victims were taken.

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