General Bipin Rawat was killed in a helicopter crash in the south of the country, which claimed the lives of 12 other people and left one survivor.

Rawat, his wife, and others were on board an Indian Air Force Mi-17V5 helicopter, which crashed on Wednesday in the Coonoor municipality of Tamil Nadu state. After hours of rescue efforts, the military confirmed the death toll.

The identity of the sole survivor was revealed as Gp Capt Varun Singh SC, who serves at the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington. He is being treated at a military hospital.

Rawat served as the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee and continued as India’s first chief of defence staff, when the new office was established to replace the previous one in 2020. The four-star general previously served as chief of the army staff.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said he was “deeply anguished” by the death of General Rawat and the other victims of the crash. “His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country,” he tweeted.

Deeply anguished by the sudden demise of Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other Armed Forces personnel in an extremely unfortunate helicopter accident today in Tamil Nadu. His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi likewise offered his condolences. The late general was “an outstanding soldier” and “a true patriot,” who did much good for improving India’s defenses, he said.

Gen Bipin Rawat was an outstanding soldier. A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus. His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional. His passing away has saddened me deeply. Om Shanti.