The Mi-17V5 helicopter was on its way from an air force base to the army defence services college when it crashed near the town of Coonoor, a hill station in Tamil Nadu.

Bipin Rawat comes from a military family with several generations having served in the Indian armed forces.
Bipin Rawat comes from a military family with several generations having served in the Indian armed forces. (Reuters Archive)

A helicopter carrying India's military chief has crashed in southern Tamil Nadu state, killing 13 people including defence chief General Bipin Rawat and his wife.

"With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident," the air force said on Twitter on Wednesday.

Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati said the Mi-17V5 helicopter was on its way from an air force base to the army defence services college when it crashed near the town of Coonoor, a hill station in Tamil Nadu. 

The reason for the crash was not immediately known.

Television images from the crash site showed plumes of smoke billowing from the debris as local residents tried to put out the fire and remove bodies from the wreckage.

The air force said in a tweet that an inquiry has been ordered into the accident.

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Rawat’s credentials 

Rawat, 63, was the most senior official in the Indian military and the first chief of defence staff, a position created by the government in 2019.

He was also an adviser to the Defense Ministry and handles coordination and integration of the combat capabilities of the armed forces.

Rawat previously served as chief of army staff.

He is credited with reducing insurgency on India's northeastern frontier and supervised a cross-border counter-insurgency operation into neighbouring Myanmar.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies